On Boston College’s Newton Campus, law students grind through long days of classes, lengthy readings, and grueling essays with their eyes on the J.D. prize. Among them, one student is balancing this challenge with another mission.
Samantha Perlman—a third-year student at BC Law pursuing a dual degree in urban and environmental policy and planning from Tufts University—is running for mayor of Marlborough, Mass.
According to her, local government needs the touch of a new generation.
“I felt like if I wanted to see young people in office, I needed to also be willing to do it myself,” Perlman said.
Marlborough, a city of just over 40,000 residents, is a half-hour drive from BC’s campus. It is also Perlman’s hometown.
Pitted against four other candidates, Perlman is the only woman in the running and the youngest in the pool. If elected, she would be the youngest mayor in Marlborough’s history. But in this election, Perlman said age might not equal experience.
“I’m the only one who’s running who’s been elected city-wide before,” Perlman said.
Following her graduation from Emory University in 2017, Perlman said she initially worked for a civic engagement and education non-profit before deciding to return her focus to Marlborough.
“I was helping all these young people in their own communities make a difference and was also living where I grew up,” Perlman said. “It was really important for me to also be making an impact where I am.”
Perlman said this realization led her to join the Marlborough Cultural Council in 2018. According to Perlman, she then noticed how few women and young people were active in local politics—especially in the Marlborough City Council.
“It was a different perspective on the city, and I didn’t think it represented me,” she said.
So in 2019, Perlman made history as the youngest woman ever elected citywide to Marlborough City Council.
Shortly thereafter, she decided to pursue one of her long-term goals of earning a law degree. She then enrolled in a dual program at BC Law and Tufts University.
“I really believe in equality and justice and wanting to make a difference and the law being a tool to help advocate for people,” she explained.
With Marlborough City Council elections operating on a biannual cycle, Perlman said her seat came up for re-election in the fall of 2021—during her first semester at BC Law.
But while balancing her education and life as a public servant may pose some challenges, Perlman said it is important for her to use her education to give back.
“What is our degree if it’s not for the public?” Perlman said. “The education isn’t for me, right? It’s really to serve.”
Perlman added that the resources BC Law offers are helpful to running a political campaign—not to mention the support of her peers and mentors.
Lloyd Hancock, BC Law ’24, met Perlman in the summer before their first year of law school. He said his expectations for her future achievements are high.
“She’s not going to have an aura or, like, an air of a lofty politician about her,” Hancock said. “She sits down and talks to you just like a person—someone you would wanna be friends with.”
Though she is trying to reach a wide range of voters, Perlman said she considers herself the most progressive candidate in the running. Issues of housing, transportation, and environmental sustainability have been major focuses for her as a city councilor, she said.
“All these issues are still pertinent even if I’m in a different position, but I’d have more of a capacity to help impact them,” she said.
Perlman’s mayoral platform aims to enhance the city’s downtown area, promote civic engagement, and revitalize schools to support multilingual learners, she said.
“I wanted people to see that, you know, these suburban places also can have movement and that we can be part of that change,” she said.
Perlman said her campaign team is currently preparing for the Oct. 10 preliminary election, in which the pool of five candidates will be dwindled down to two before the general election on Nov. 7.
If she wins, Perlman would take office in early January of 2024. With that in mind, Perlman said she is aiming to wrap up law school this December—a semester early.
Lissy Medvedow, executive director of the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy—which holds a competitive legal fellowship that Perlman participated in this past summer—said Perlman’s early finish to law school is both atypical and impressive.
“It is generally not done and she is going to make it happen,” Medvedow said. “I think it goes to her remarkable nature and her doggedness to pursue her dreams.”
Medvedow is optimistic about Perlman’s prospects in the elections ahead.
“I expect and will look forward to her becoming mayor,” Medvedow said.
*This article was corrected from a previous version to include that Perlman was the first woman to be elected citywide to Marlborough’s City Council.