Scott Newman just completed his first year on Petersburg’s Borough Assembly. KFSK’s Hannah Flor sat down with Newman to talk about what his first year in office has been like, and the necessity of looking at both sides. Newman was inspired to run for the seat because he was frustrated with how the Assembly dealt with COVID-19.
Newman: I’ve always kind of chosen to stay out of local politics because it’s so contentious. People get really upset. And there’s always two sides. But I figure, you know, I’ve lived here my whole life. And this is, you know, my town, it’s our town. And I just felt like, hey, maybe it’s my time to contribute, and put in my two cents and see where it ends up.
Flor: So you said you stayed away from it, because it’s contentious, how does it feel to be in the middle of it? Are you more comfortable with that contentiousness now, how has that changed?
Newman: Oh, no, I think there’s always two sides to the issue. And when I was running, what I said was, like, I have no agenda. And I really don’t, I mean, some people have an ax to grind. And I really didn’t, I just wanted to bring balance and logic to the assembly, so we can make good decisions, and people can have confidence in the assembly.
Flor: Is there anything that surprised you about this experience?
Newman: You know, if anything, there was one person that as I was running, they encouraged me, you know, to, “You know, you gotta look at both sides,” and, boy, that has really rung true. Because every issue that comes up, you know, you kind of have to immerse yourself into it. And, you know, to get in and figure it out, you know, “What is the core issue here? And what is the best way to address it?” And to do that you have to talk to people on both sides. And it’s been very interesting for me to find that balance, you know, to get to the crux of the message on both sides. And then take that, and then come up with, you know, what you think, is the proper course forward?
Flor: It sounds like you haven’t really made your mind up on a lot of issues until you start diving in deep.
Newman: Well, yeah, I mean, if you have your mind made up, before you go into the issue, you’re not open minded. And, you know, we all have our opinions. And I have found that sometimes my opinion needs to be modified. And by doing so, by going into these issues, and learning, you realize that, “Wow, so many of these issues are a lot bigger than you think they are.” You know, everybody has an opinion. I get phone calls at, you know, 10 o’clock at night, people that finally feel courageous enough to make the phone call. But I like that. That’s the part that’s part of the process, people that are approaching the hardware store, you know, I appreciate that, because that’s the kind of input and feedback and, you know, oftentimes people come up and they’re hard driving their point. And by the time you’re done talking with them, you know, they just want to be heard. People just want to be heard. And that’s the beauty of living in a small town is people can approach you and feel like they’re heard. And I do hear them.
Flor: What do you wish that people understood about the assembly?
Newman: Well, it is a lot of work. If you have anybody that’s looking at running for any board or assembly definitely takes time. If you have extra time on your hands and extra mental capacity, then jump right in. But I do encourage people to run for boards and be a part of our community. And, you know, the citizens are part of the process, we are the process. Like, this is our town, and we need to get involved and have a hand and have a say in how we move forward. And that requires all of us.
Flor: Is there anything that you’re particularly proud of in the last year?
Newman: You know, I don’t think that I really have done any one thing in particular. I am pretty sure that there were some other assembly members and people that were pretty concerned about me, thought I was like, super ultra conservative. And then when they meet me, they find that actually I’m, I like to think I’m a fairly reasonable, balanced person, and can hold a discussion. And that’s what the process is supposed to be. We’re supposed to get along and encourage debate and talk to each other. And, you know, find the best solution moving forward, whatever that may be. And I feel like I’ve gotten along well with the other assembly members and for that, I am particularly proud of that I guess.
This is the 2nd of a 2-part series with freshmen assembly members. The first aired yesterday, and can be found here. The next municipal election is Tuesday, October 3rd. The deadline to file for candidacy for Borough Assembly is today at 4:30 pm, when the municipal building closes.