When Adam J. Scanlon was elected as a state representative in 2020, it marked many firsts in the town’s history.
For the first time in more than 40 years, a Democrat had won an election in the predominantly Republican 14th Bristol district. Scanlon became the district’s first openly gay representative and one of the youngest politicians set to serve in the state house at 23.
Yet, despite these many firsts, Scanlon said he is not the most important person in the district. His constituents, he said, are the people who help him every day, and the deciding factor in choosing to run for another term this year against write-in candidate, Republican Patrick McCue of Mansfield.
“I have gotten to know people over the past few years,” Scanlon said. “I spent a lot of time learning about issues in the school department and other issues in the town when I started.”
An early start in politics
Scanlon, now 25, began his political career at 17 when he learned that the North Attleborough high school was at risk of losing its accreditation. He, and other students, were upset with the numerous cuts to programs at the school. In response, Scanlon decided to bring this issue to the attention of the Finance Committee, where he made the case in favor of funding the school rather than increasing budget cuts.
“I sat back down, and I thought, ‘Hey, they are not going to care what I say, I’m just a kid,’ but someone next to me said, ‘I am interested in what Adam had to say,” Scanlon said, recounting the meeting. “So from that moment on, I thought about that moment and realized I made a positive impact there and I was able to use my voice to deliver.”
Still in high school, Scanlon decided to run for the position of Town Meeting Representative in 2015. He was successful and began to learn more about the schools. Scanlon’s general dissatisfaction with how the schools were run and funded led him to seek a position on the School Committee in 2017.
“I was 20 at the time and still in college,” he said. “At first I thought I might not win, but I felt that someone of my generation needed to take a stand for public education.”
Scanlon’s campaign for School Committee was significantly policy heavy—-focusing on creating a policy plan and more transparency. This campaign was successful, as Scanlon served on the committee from 2017 to 2019. During this time, he worked alongside unions to negotiate contracts and help secure funding to implement one-to-one devices in North Attleborough Schools.
“I kind of learned the ins and outs of the school system,” he said. “I was so interested in what was going on in town that I wanted to expand my horizons.’
The next steps in public service
Scanlon said he felt there was more that he could do in public office, and began learning about the Council on Aging and the Veteran’s Office. In 2019, he was elected as a member of the Town Council. Scanlon was responsible for helping establish the new form of government by hiring a town manager and restructuring committees with his fellow councilors.
In his mind, Scanlon said his biggest accomplishment as a councilor was investigating and looking into exemptions and abatements for senior citizens. Inspired by his grandparents, Scanlon said he views seniors as a top priority in his past and present work.
“They mean a lot to me,” he said. “They brought me up to be the person I am today.”
In 2020, Scanlon ran and was elected as a State Rep. for the 14th Bristol house district. As a member of the State House, he serves on the Judiciary Committee and the Committee of Bonding, Small Businesses, and Racial Equity. He has created a friendship with the current Speaker of the House, Ron Mariano (D-Quincy) who met with him several times after he was elected.
Plans for the second term
As an elected official, Scanlon said the biggest priority right now for him is to pass an economic development bill that would provide economic assistance for municipalities and tax relief for citizens.
“We are also looking into affordable housing bills, bills to combat addiction, we even have an animal welfare bill in the works,” Scanlon said about other legislation he has planned. “There’s a lot we have to do.”
Another priority for Scanlon this year is to expand vocational education. Scanlon, whose father graduated from Tri-County Vocational High School in Franklin Massachusetts, said vocational training is important for the economy’s growth and that many individuals who want to apply are subject to long waitlists.
“Largely the waitlist is impacting those with disabilities and the admission criteria is so high that if you make one wrong turn in middle school, that could put you at a disadvantage,” he said. “I think everyone should have the same opportunity to become a plumber or an electrician.”
If Scanlon could choose one aspect of his job that is the most important, he said it would be his constituents. Throughout his career, he made connections with the people of North Attleborough to understand what the town needs and give updates as to what happens during legislative sessions. He wants to be as transparent with his constituents as possible—and views them as an important part of his decision-making process.
“I think there is a difference between procedure and transparency,” said Scanlon. “We all want to get to the same end goal, which is a procedure, but transparency is letting people know what’s going on—and that’s what I am doing. The best thing we can do is to be out and about in our community and talking to people.”