Healdsburg teen Jackson Boaz, 14, is already a political pro

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Regardless of political affiliation, the political divide seems to worsen by the day. But ask just-turned 14-year-old Jackson Boaz what he likes best, and he’ll answer “politics.”

Boaz belies his age when he talks. The slender, outgoing teen with a crown of dark brown hair carries the requisite laptop. His sparkling blue eyes are intelligent and direct.

Jackson remembers “painfully boring” City Council meetings that still held a “fascination” for him when he was very young. As a 5-year-old, he started his political career walking in parades for now-state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, along with family members who supported his “I like Mike” campaign. McGuire rose from being the youngest member of the school board at age 19, to City Council, to Healdsburg mayor and the board of supervisors before being first elected to the state senate in 2014.

As Boaz watched and helped, he caught the “bug.” By sixth grade, McGuire had offered an internship in Sacramento. That was two years ago.

Now, Boaz is racking up his own political bona fides.

He spent several days this summer in Sacramento as an intern, including helping submit a senate joint resolution — SJR30 — in support of Amtrak. He worked on the website, ran errands, stripped binders and delivered press releases.

He’s the active and engaged student body president at St. John’s School in Healdsburg, where he carries a 4.0 grade point average, and is working as a campaign consultant for school board candidate Mike Potmesil. Of course, he’s too young to drive.

To get to the offices where he volunteers, he hitches rides with friends and relatives, or depends on his two grandfathers, Doug Boaz and Bill Peppin.

Boaz also serves on the Healdsburg Junior High School Governance Council as a community member. There was some confusion about his age when he was initially invited to join the council — from his resume, members expected an adult.

And he volunteers, serving on the executive board of the Wine Country Young Democrats, with the Redwood Empire Food Bank, the Foss Creek Cleanup and at open houses at the Healdsburg Fire Department where his father, Jason Boaz, is fire chief. During the October fires, Jackson spent 60 hours volunteering at the Healdsburg Community Center evacuation site.

Last spring, before student body elections, he went all out with a campaign, speeches, and best friend and running mate Alex Fitzpatrick. They created a website, and included proposed policy changes — and potential solutions — for teachers and the principal.

The two solicited political donations of $200, created the permitted four posters, made T-shirts and business cards, and got endorsements from the current Healdsburg City Council, McGuire and Fourth District Board of Supervisor James Gore.

He says Permit Sonoma commissioner Ariel Kelley, whom he worked with at the Healdsburg Free Store, is “inspiring” to him, as are Mary Watts, a candidate for Santa Rosa City Council, and Chris Rogers, current vice mayor of Santa Rosa.

His latest project is working as campaign consultant to Potmesil, a neophyte candidate who values Boaz’s input.

“Jackson is a force, in a positive way,” said Potmesil. “He’s connected and knows everybody.” Potmesil said the first time he saw Boaz at a fundraiser he thought he was a college student, and was astounded to discover he was a rising eighth-grader.

“I’m pleased he’s on our team,” said Potmesil. “He always follows up and gets things done.”

“This is my first campaign as a consultant,” said Boaz. “We’re working our tails off.”

He has helped with opposition research and with Potmesil’s statement of qualifications.

“The school board is an interesting, competitive race,” Boaz said with the air of a political pro. He takes meetings at the Flying Goat, helped build the website and gathered endorsements. He’s made time to walk precincts as well. His work includes social media outreach. He’s not working for pay, just the experience.

The disciplined youngster gets up at 5:30 a.m., sometimes earlier, and finishes his school work. Afternoons are spent “bouncing around the county” volunteering.

He can’t remember the last time he played video games but thinks it was more than a year ago. He does like to read; currently he’s in the middle of “The Oath and the Office: A Guide to the Constitution for Future Presidents.” Next on his list is “The Audacity to Win,” by David Plouffe.

His interest in education remains foremost. Chris Picott, who has Boaz as a student in his English class at St. John’s School, said he expects the teen to be “steering the (country’s) wheel one day.

“He’s part of the future that’s determined to preserve the ideas of an institution that he wholeheartedly believes in,” Picott said. “Jackson is what Jefferson was looking for in the youth of America 200 years ago when he fought for a democracy in the hands of an educated populace.”

Jackson’s mother died of cancer when he was 4 years old and his brother, Austin, just 2. Losing her was a factor in his drive and he’s thankful he has family to help. His father has since remarried and Boaz and his brother have two siblings. He counts his aunt, Sonoma State University political science professor Cynthia Boaz, as one of his influences and inspirations.

“His success in politics so far doesn’t surprise me at all,” Cynthia Boaz said, “though it started about a decade before I would have expected. But Jackson has never been one to let age stop him.”

He’s already thinking of high school, college and beyond, excited to see where his political life will go. While he doesn’t rule out running for office, he enjoys working on policy; perhaps working as a chief of staff would be nice.

Towns correspondent Ann Carranza can be reached at healdsburg.towns@gmail.com.

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