SHARON HILL Starting Jan. 7, Temple University senior James Lafferty will be juggling his course load as an economics and political science major with a real-world lesson in politics - serving on the Sharon Hill Borough Council.
Lafferty, 23, was elected in November to the seven-member council in the town where he has lived since he was a baby. He was one of four Democrats swept into office by a large majority in the borough of about 5,700, where they beat three incumbent council members and one other Republican.
That means that the council, currently four Republicans and three Democrats, will be all Democratic after the Jan. 6 swearing-in ceremony.
"When I knocked on doors, people were saying they're really happy to see someone in this generation get involved," Lafferty said.
Fellow Democrat Scott MacNeil agreed.
"Since we already have a senior citizen on the council, we will have viewpoints from all generations," said MacNeil, 42. "It's good when making decisions that we get input from people of all ages. And now we can do that."
As he prepares to assume office, Lafferty said he had many goals, including improving the borough website, having council meetings televised, increasing recycling, and creating a business association and neighborhood watch organization.
He said his college courses on economics and politics had helped him make plans he wanted to enact in office, but he also expressed the sort of discomfort with politics many young adults nationwide share.
"I could never work for a politician. That's just not possible. I really think I'm different from most politicians," he said. "I'm a very straight-and-narrow type of guy. I won't vote for what I consider wrong. I won't vote for someone just because he's a Democrat or a Republican."
In fact, Lafferty made a pledge: "I can guarantee that within the first couple meetings, you will see me going against the party line or questioning it."
Lafferty has a four-year term to prove it. And next year, he will start law school. He said he had been accepted at Temple and was waiting to hear from Penn.
He won't be the only local leader in his family. When he was campaigning, he learned the Democrats had no candidate for tax collector in the borough. He suggested his mother, Donna Mulhern, and she won her election, too.
"I dislike the world politician," Lafferty said. "I personally would rather be called 'governor,' as in one who governs, or 'statesman.'
"If you really want to get things done, it's really through the political process that you've got to do it."