Alumni in office

Karen McDaniel, Writer

Though national government gets more attention, local politics affect our daily lives more intimately. It’s especially exciting when people who are known throughout the community become involved in government. For BFA in particular, there are four alumni who have held positions in local government or were recently elected: Corey Parent, Casey Toof, Dustin Degree, and Brendan Deso.

According to VT Digger, Parent announced his run for Vermont State Senate on Mar. 13 of this year, and graduated from BFA in 2008.

In April 2016, Deso was appointed to the St. Albans Town Planning Commission just under a year after graduating from BFA, as is announced in an article by Elaine Ezerins for the Messenger.

Degree, who graduated from BFA in 2003, served in the Vermont General Assembly from 2011-2012, as is said on his page on the official VGA website.

Finally, Toof ran for election this past midterms for State Representative and also graduated from BFA in 2003, and coached for the boys’ varsity basketball team from 2011-2016, as he states in his campaign website.  

History and civics teacher Jeffrey Moulton explains how their involvement in BFA athletics may have inspired them to serve their community through politics.

“I know that in the soccer and football programs they have been civic-minded and community service-based. [Coaches] Dan Marlow, Ed Webbley and Geoff Murray have always made it clear that it is important to give back to the community through their experiences as student athletes it’s really motivated them to give back,” Moulton said.

Moulton knew Toof and Casey well and has even had them come in to serve as guest speakers.

“Corey I did not teach, but Dustin and Casey I did teach and actually had them come in as guest speakers in my We the People class about five years ago just to talk to the kids about their experience in politics and how they got motivated and some of the challenges that they face. I taught Casey in not only We the People but I was his soccer coach [too], and I knew Dustin pretty well through athletics… I did not coach him but I taught him,” Moulton said.

Moulton speaks to how BFA having civics classes available prepared these former students to run for office, and how they can inspire current and future students to potentially think about a career in politics.

“I do [think their time at BFA prepared them well] because now we’re entering our twentieth year or so where we not only have a sophomore civics class to be offered to students but also a senior civics class. Allowing the students to understand the foundations of our government, how to put citizenship into practice, and allowing them the opportunity to understand government at a local, state, and federal level I think really not only allows the students to have a clearer picture about government but more importantly how they can get involved,” Moulton said.

Moulton stresses that while being involved in government is important, there are more ways that people can serve their community.

“We have a lot of caring members out there in the community who if they’re not getting involved in politics, they’re getting involved in community service and helping out, so I’m very proud of the folks who have decided to run for office but I’m also just as proud of all the people who have played a role in making this area be a special one through community service,” Moulton said.

Moulton shares a word of caution for anyone thinking about running for office in the future. He states it’s crucial to keep in mind the needs of the community someone’s serving.

“Make sure that you do what you think is right and not what you think is popular…. It’s about doing the right thing for the community at the right time,” Moulton said.

Regardless of how people decide to serve their community, everyone needs to be an active participant.

“There are people who complain a lot today about our political culture, but they choose to do nothing about it, even voting, which is something that’s highly taken for granted. I would hope that people if they want to be pointing out the problems that they also become part of the solution. It cuts to the heart and soul of what it means to live in a representative democracy, which is if you don’t want to participate, you don’t have a right to complain,” Moulton said.

Geoff Murray, who is also a civics and US history teacher, says it was clear from the start Parent’s goals of going into politics.

“I know for Corey it was always a goal of his to get involved in politics, and for Casey and the others I don’t know their motivations other than wanting to serve their community,” Murray said.

They not only serve their community through politics, but also as examples of how students can achieve their own personal career goals regardless of what they may be.

“They’re great role models for the future generations, it’s important for our current students to understand that you in fact can get involved in government and have an impact, it’s not something that’s out of reach as they have shown,” Murray said.

Murray hopes that more students take up positions in government, local or national.

“Anytime our students get involved in government, that’s a good thing. In our democracy we need people to be active citizens, that’s what we try to teach here. The more folks that we can say are examples of civic leaders, I think that’s a great thing,” Murray said.

If you have a passion for serving your community, a career in politics is not out of reach, as these alumni have proven to be true. If that’s not your calling, there are many other ways to make your community a better place that can be just as impactful. You could mentor, become a coach, volunteer, there’s so much to do and everyone should do their part. It’s about understanding how individuals can make a difference in their community.