Zach Ouellette is an extreme example of Generation Z. He has a strong drive to co-create the future like his peers, but he has turned that drive into a run, at the age of 17, for a place on the Murfreesboro City Council.
We asked him five questions about his run, his mentors, and what he thinks about the future of Murfreesboro.
1.Source: The property tax increase is what fueled your run for office. The city has not raised the rate since 1999, in fact they have lowered it a number of times. Is it the size of the increase in property taxes that bothers you, or the idea of a tax increase period? Where specifically in the city’s budget would you look to cut costs?
Ouellette: The property tax increase bothers me because of why the council is putting it in place. We only need it because after years of excessive spending, the council has seemingly only now realized that the spending has to be paid for. To go years in a row spending over budget and then slapping a massive tax increase on Murfreesboro citizens is not only bad for the economy, but it displays a blatant disregard for the effect of the tax on the average retiree, renter, or small business owner.
As far as what we can do to get spending back in check, there are tons of places to look. The most obvious place is our parks. It is great that we have high-quality parks where people can spend time outdoors and stay in shape. The problem comes when we’re spending about a million dollars per mile to build the greenway, and at a time when the city is far in the red, we’re adding a massive expansion.
Another place to look is simple oversight issues, like going tens of millions of dollars over budget on the new police department. If the city can keep our projects in check, we can cut back spending by a considerable amount.
We can also try alternative school schedules, like staggered year-round plans, which have increased performance and cut costs in the scores of millions per year where they have been tried. In short, there is always waste, and it is not the responsibility of the people to shoulder its burden.
2.Source: You are a high school student at Central Magnet School, currently considered the top high school in the state, and number eight in the country. It is also a college prep school, how will being on the council affect your going to college?
Ouellette: I still plan on pursuing a degree in economics at MTSU when I graduate high school. Most councilmen, if not all of them, have a second job. Mine will be college. I will be busy, but the people will always be my priority, and if I need to spend more than four years in college in order to be capable of serving Murfreesboro, then I will.
3.Source: As a life-long resident of Murfreesboro, what are the top three things you would like to see happening now to prepare the city for the future?
Ouellette: It is impossible to discuss the future without discussing education. Because students are the future of the city, it is vital to ensure that we have high-quality public education within the city. An educated public will mean that Murfreesboro will thrive in the information economy and virtually eliminate structural unemployment.
However, businesses won’t come to the city unless we are business-friendly. That entails keeping taxes on business low, and making sure that zoning laws aren’t overbearing.
To support all of this, solid infrastructure is a necessity. If we can cut back spending where we don’t need it, we can start spending more on utilities and traffic management strategies.
To sum it up, I want to keep taxes low, improve public education, and promote frugal, responsible growth.
4.Source: There are many great statesmen who have come out of Murfreesboro. And you have been involved in politics for some time, so I am sure you have met several of them. Who are your mentors? What have they taught you that has prepared you for being the youngest member of the City Council?
Ouellette: Some of my most important mentors have been our wonderful state legislators from the area who have helped make Tennessee a great place to live and do business. As people who have successfully campaigned before, they are a vital source of advice.
My parents are also excellent role models who taught me right from wrong. Though we don’t always agree on politics, they are my most ardent supporters.
Without these people in my life, I would not have been strong enough to run.
5.Source: The City of Murfreesboro has been working with the other cities, the county, and the Chamber of Commerce on a number of programs to increase the number of higher paying jobs in Murfreesboro and the county for years. They have seen some major successes. You have brought up better jobs as one of your issues. What do you feel can be done to increase these efforts?
Ouellette: Education is one of the most important places to look when trying to build a strong foundation for high-paying jobs. There wouldn’t be any doctors worth visiting if medical schools didn’t exist. If we build better public schools, Murfreesboro can become a place where every citizen is able to enter the workforce with a strong knowledge base with which they can climb the ladder to success.
Perhaps the keystone to attracting businesses, however, is the limitation of government. High taxes and excessive regulations drive away entrepreneurs and corporations that would otherwise be willing to bring thousands of jobs to the area. That’s why I want to keep taxes low, cutting them when possible, and prevent the city from taking extreme measures on zoning laws.
For more information about Zach Ouellette, check his
Facebook page at, https://www.facebook.com/vote4ouellette/.