By Catherine Twing, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – After running a six-month campaign for Marlborough City councilor-at-large, Samantha Perlman planned to relax the day after the election. Maybe see a movie, take a hike.
Instead she spent the day answering calls and responding to hundreds of messages. Everyone was contacting Perlman to congratulate her on her victory, from childhood friends to Senator Ed Markey, for whom she was an intern.
“I was on the phone all day, nonstop calls, voicemails, texts, Facebook messages, emails. It was way more than I expected,” she said. “People I hadn’t talked to in years that said they’d been watching the campaign. It was really inspiring that people were motivated by what we did in Marlborough.”
Not only did she top the ticket, receiving more votes than any councilor-at-large candidate in a decade (3,331), at age 24 she became the youngest female to be elected to Marlborough City Council.
Perlman attended Marlborough Public Schools, including Francis J. Kane Elementary which happened to be the polling place where her family gathered to vote for her.
She participated in civic engagement groups in high school before attending Emory University for history and African American studies. Perlman has interned at various levels of government and has made a career out of promoting civic engagement in schools, currently as a civic engagement manager at Scholars Strategy Network.
After hearing State Rep. Andy Vargas speak, she said she would like to run for office someday. To which Vargas asked, “Why not now?”
“And there was no reason why not,” she said.
She seriously considered running for office for a year and a half before formally launching her campaign in June.
“It was a combination of things. I had seen a lot of women elected recently, I was appointed to the cultural council, recently became chair, and there were very few people that looked like me in those spaces,” she said. “I was also helping to engage young people in their own communities to make policy changes, so I should also be doing that here.”
As she considered a run she did extensive research which led her to the Emerge program, which empowers women running for office and helps them hone necessary skills. Perlman was the youngest of the 27 women accepted to her class.
“I have such respect for any woman who runs for office,” she said, citing the way that female candidates aren’t always taken as seriously. “I’ve definitely gained confidence.”
She describes her leadership strategy as “horizontal,” wanting to include as many people as possible, and something she demonstrated throughout her campaign.
With the help of volunteers, dressed in her campaign colors of yellow and teal, she tried to knock on every door in the city. She met many people who had never had a candidate come to their door.
“It’s exciting to meet people and build those relationships because that’s what local government is,” Perlman said. “I care deeply about what they think and want to include them. I want to be connected to them, person to person.”
The campaign has given her a new understanding of Marlborough, its issues and its people.
“It’s one thing to grow up in a community, it’s another to knock on almost every door. I feel like I rediscovered things about Marlborough,” Perlman said. “I’d find monuments in interesting places, neighborhoods I’d never visited. So many different types of people who live in our community and many have felt left out of the political process.”
While her goal was to be elected, she viewed it as running for the community rather than running against her opponents.
“I keep saying ‘we’ won,” she explained. “There isn’t language to properly describe the appreciation for the community that I have.”
With the election over, Perlman has many goals, including advocating for a fire station on the west side of the city and increasing civic engagement. But before that work starts in earnest, she hopes to catch up on sleep she lost during the campaign.
“Anything worthwhile is going to take some hard work and some grit. And I definitely lost a lot of sleep,” she laughed. “But I could see there’s a bright future.”