Here on the Stay Work Play blog, we’re celebrating young leaders across the state who have stepped up to participate in the political process! “Meet Local Leader…” is a series highlighting the people under forty who are leading their communities at the local level!
Meet Zachary Koehler!
Zak is a Senior Software Engineer at Liberty Mutual Insurance who wanted to use his expertise to help Dover schools close the technology gap as a member of Dover’s School Board! Zak decided to get involved in his community, first joining the Energy Commission and later the Dover 400th Committee and Rezoning Subcommittee of the Planning Commission, in part because Dover felt like home.
On the side, Zak periodically stage manages and acts at local theatres in Portsmouth. A Keene State College Alum who was born in Bedford, Zak is truly a New Hampshire native. In college, Zak studied Film before switching gears to Computer Science.
Tell us about your “Path to Politics” — what made you decide to get involved?
Dover was the first place I had lived that felt like home to me since moving from Bedford. I had moved an average of once a year after I graduated from Keene. The straw that broke the camel’s back for me to start getting involved was getting sick of just debating and talking politics on Facebook. I wanted to start actually getting involved rather than pretending I was by arguing with people online. Those discussions get nowhere, even when the intentions are good.
I started by getting involved in the Dover Energy Commission which looks to advise the city on energy plans and sustainable practices with the focus on making Dover an EcoMunicipality. I am still a part of the Energy Commission and also a member of the Dover 400th Committee and Rezoning Subcommittee of the Planning Commission.
I began volunteering through the Girls Who Code program that Liberty Mutual is a sponsor of. This allowed me to volunteer at the Dover Middle School to teach interested female students about software programming and engineering. It was there I realized how far behind the schools were with their technology and wanted to do something. So I ran for the Dover School Board and won, representing Ward 4. I just won reelection in November 2019.
What’s the number one thing you hope to accomplish while in office?
Get the school district closer to a 1:1 Laptop initiative and help add more programs to the high school’s Career and Technology program.
What advice would you give to another young person interested in getting involved in local politics in NH?
As the great Shia Labeouf once said: Just Do It. The only way you are going to make change is to be the change you want to see. You don’t need to be a State Rep or on the City Council to help your community. Join a Commission, Committee, or Board in your municipality and start getting involved. You’ll love it.
What advice do you have for citizen advocates?
Never stop reaching out to those who represent you at the municipal, state, or national levels. Without hearing from you, we can’t understand your ideas and thoughts on important issues.
Finally, just for fun, tell us something about yourself that will surprise people.
I took ballroom dance lessons for about a year in high school. I started it to get my feet quicker for basketball but actually really enjoyed the experience so continued. Which reminds me… I need to get back into that.