21-year-old takes school board seat in Farmington

  • Article by: HERÓN MÁRQUEZ ESTRADA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 16, 2012 - 3:03 PM

Jake Cordes suddenly is one of the youngest elected officials in the state.

He is just barely old enough to drink, still lives with his parents and won't graduate from college until later this year. But at 21, Jake Cordes is already an elected official, becoming one of the youngest office holders in Minnesota when he won a seat on the Farmington school board on Nov. 6. Recently, between classes and tests at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Cordes, a 2009 Farmington High School graduate, answered a few questions:

QWhat made you decide to run for the school board?

AI've always been interested in politics. I figured someday I'd get involved. I just never figured it would be this soon.

QYou announced in March, a few months after your 21st birthday. Was there a concern that your age would be a detriment or held against you?

AI thought there'd be some folks who thought 21 is too young. But ultimately I thought it would be a net positive for me and the school board.

QHow so?

AI offered the perspective of someone who was recently in the classroom and who knows what works and what doesn't. A perspective that none of the other school board members could provide. ... I got a good education. I think there are definitely things we can improve upon, such as offering skills that will make our students more attractive when they enter the workforce.

QDo you have relatives that are still in the school system?

AI have some cousins who are still in the school system, 10th grade and sixth grade.

QHow is it going to be having relatives in the same school district that you are now going to help run and manage?

AIt would be the same as having children in the school district. I think for me just knowing that my family will be receiving a good education; for them, they think it's unique having someone they know on the school board -- that they can talk to somebody who is making the changes.

QI assume, being such a new graduate, that you still have friends or friends of friends who are still in the school system. Is that going to be a difficult situation for you?

AI think that is something I will have to maintain a balance with, being professional and remaining friends with people who are still in their junior or senior years of high school. It will be a challenge, but I think I will be able to overcome that.

QHow about the fact that you will be, technically, the boss of the same teachers who you were being taught by or maybe reprimanded by a few years ago?

ARight. I've always maintained a good relationship with my teachers, or I should say my former teachers. I don't think this will strain that relationships. I think they will feel more comfortable approaching me and saying, 'Here are some of the problems we see; can you do anything about it.' Utilizing those relationships will be a net plus for my term on the school board.

QIn retrospect, why do you think you were able to win?

AI worked really hard. I started door-knocking in late August and I worked up until the Saturday before Election Day. I was out there every weekend and some nights ... spreading my name out there and getting to know as many people as I could.

QWhat kind of reaction did you get when you did the door-knocking? Did people confuse you with one of the campaign volunteers as opposed to the candidate?

ANope, for the most people recognized me as the candidate ... and not as a volunteer or a child. I think a lot of people had been doing their homework.

QDid you get a sense of what kind issues they were wanting you to push?

AThe school district finances were on a lot of people's minds. They've been feeling we have some pretty high property taxes in Farmington and I promised to look into that ... One of my campaign promises was financial responsibility.

QYou're looking at about a $1 million deficit next year. Do you have a sense of what the district could do to close that?

AWe need to look and see what kind of jobs can be scaled back and see what kind of job duplications we have, to eliminate the overlap. I would also explore doing facility sharing with the cities or some alternative ways to find revenue.

QSuch as?

ADoing fundraisers is something you can always do. Maybe advertising out at our sports facilities ... I think we'll be able to close the gap ... without layoffs or any major cuts.

QLast question on age. You are the youngest or one of the youngest school board members in the state. Does that mean anything to you?

AThat just adds to the whole awesomeness of the entire situation. I mean, on the day after the election an awesome responsibility was put upon my shoulders.

QHow did you celebrate your victory?

AI found out I officially won at 12:30 [a.m.] Ultimately, I celebrated victory by going to bed. ... I had been very stressed the entire day.

QHow about the next day?

AI thanked everybody who helped out and treated them to a dessert. We had some ice cream. ... I think it is going to be a fun four years.

Heron Marquez • 952-746-3281

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