Two years ago during her summer break, Christine Walsh ’21 interned for Benjamin Blake, mayor of her hometown, Milford, Conn. This past fall semester, after sustaining a concussion prior to the start of classes, she thought she would be stuck at home, recovering and then waiting for the next semester to begin. But as fate had it, she was able to return to work with Blake, this time, with her own office. After all – the assistant mayor would need an office.
In late September, while Walsh was home recuperating, she began campaigning for candidates and attending various political events. At one of these events, she ran into the mayor, who recognized her from her summer internship.
“One day, he invited me to City Hall for a meeting, and said that the assistant mayor was retiring and they needed someone to fill in his place before they could hire someone else,” Walsh said. “Since I wasn’t going back to school until January, it worked out perfectly. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
So from November 28, 2018, until January 16, 2019, the acting assistant mayor of Milford was a 20-year-old college history major. Midway through Walsh’s term, a long-term assistant mayor was hired, but she continued to work as an assistant to the mayor.
I’m still not quite sure what I want to do [in the future], but one thing I’ve noticed that I like is collaborating … I know I want to be interacting with other people on a daily basis and helping the community.
Walsh primarily worked with Economic and Community Development Director Julie Nash, completing a variety of projects, such as marketing and beautification initiatives. She also prepared for a new tourism initiative the city will launch in the spring, urging those from nearby areas like New York City or Long Island to enjoy a summer getaway in Milford, which boasts 17 miles of shoreline.
Hometown: Milford, Conn.
High School: Sacred Heart Academy
“I worked on a plan in which we were trying to entice businesses to beautify their spaces and make Milford a prettier place, so I did research on different city ordinances and codes that some businesses could potentially be breaking in terms of appearance and overall aesthetic, and put that into a Powerpoint,” Walsh said.
Besides working on assigned projects, Walsh also attended meetings and events, which ranged from economic development roundtables to ribbon-cutting ceremonies. During budget season in November, she sat with the mayor and the department heads and saw, line-by-line, how to effectively balance a budget. But her role did not end there – a significant part of Walsh’s job also consisted of listening to constituents.
“Milford prides itself on being a city that always answers every phone call,” Walsh said. “We’ll get back to you if we miss your call, and anyone is welcome to come into the office. I’ve learned how important it is to listen to people … we really need to look at people on an individual basis and listen to what they have to say about what affects them.”
Through her time assisting the mayor, Walsh learned that she enjoyed the neighborly manner of local politics, as opposed to the bureaucratic style of the federal level. Her experience gave her some insight into what she hopes to do in the future.
“I like local politics because you can see the changes you’re trying to enact in a relatively short period of time and they’re more tangible,” Walsh said. “I’m still not quite sure what I want to do [in the future], but one thing I’ve noticed that I like is collaborating … I know I want to be interacting with other people on a daily basis and helping the community.”
Through her work, Walsh interacted with Milford’s many residents, from the homeless population to state representatives-elect, and in doing so, she gained a sense of pride for her city.
“There is a ‘Milford pride,’ so to speak, in that everyone is working really hard to make this a great place to live,” Walsh said. “I think what I enjoyed the most is – regardless of their stature or position – how passionate each person is about how (believing) their job is a small part of making Milford a better place. It’s evident in their work and how they work with others, and that was a cool thing to be a part of, even for the interim.”
Walsh is returning to campus for spring semester, and her meetings and roundtables will be replaced by classes and clubs, but she is taking with her the perspective she has gained through her time as acting assistant mayor.
“Growing up in a small community your whole life, you take things for granted and you don’t really think of how things happen or the processes that are going on,” Walsh said. “I think I’ve gained a new appreciation for this community and how kind the people are who live and work here. We’re all just people who want to make this the best place it can be.”