AHS junior gives Town Hall work a try 

  • Athol High School junior Cody Germain, who is doing an internship at Athol Tow Hall, tries out the chair of Town Manager Shaun Suhoski. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 11/16/2022 3:56:07 PM
Modified: 11/16/2022 3:56:06 PM

ATHOL — When Athol High School junior Cody Germain was asked by his faculty advisor, Donna Lajoie, if he might be interested in doing an internship, without missing a beat he replied, “Yeah, I’d maybe like to try something in local government.”

Lajoie put Cody in touch with Rebecca Bialecki, currently the vice chair of Athol’s Selectboard, who in turn introduced him to Town Manager Shaun Suhoski. As a result, the young Athol native can be seen Thursday afternoons at Town Hall, taking part in various meetings, discussions, completing assigned tasks, and otherwise learning the ropes of running a municipality.

“I’ve found town politics really interesting, especially in the last couple of years,” said Germain when asked what piqued his interest in immersing himself in town operations. “I’ve heard more about it in the news, and I found it pretty interesting. And I really enjoy it’s history.

“I was thinking about possible career paths. I was thinking maybe something in law — become a lawyer — or even possibly doing something in government. So, I thought I might as well test it out, see if I like it, see how it actually works before going off to college and having to make that decision.”

Asked where he gets most of the information that drives his interest in government, Germain said, “I get a decent chunk of it from social media. I don’t have cable at home, but I get a lot from just watching the news on my phone, reading news articles.”

He said he knows he needs a discerning eye when choosing which sites to trust.

“I find a lot of different news outlets do put their own spin on things,” he explained, “which is why when I find something that catches my eye, I try to look at both sides of, try to read more than one article on a particular topic. One article isn’t enough to gather my facts.

“I don’t really have a favorite site … I do have the WCVB Channel 5 app. Or I look at more national news, something like ABC, the national networks.”

When it comes to activity at Town Hall, Cody explained, “I started out the first week working with Mr. Suhoski in his office. He showed the variety of things that come across his desk, the jobs he has to do. Then he’s sending me around to the different departments.

“For example, I met with Eric Smith, the planning director. I spent an hour with him, and he was showing me the things he has to do, things he’s done in the past, things he’s working on now. This way I can get a feel for what people do, and I find something interesting I can go work on that project with them.”

Germain, who began his stint at Town Hall in mid-September, said, “Working with Mr. Suhoski, I saw the variety of things he deals with. I thought it would be more routine, but it seems like he’s always dealing with something new, whether it’s going to a fiscal meeting or working with someone who just walked into his office or working with employees. There’s so much variety in what he does. I didn’t realize how much actually goes into it.”

He also said he differs somewhat from those of his peers who are also interested in politics.

“I find most people, if their interested in politics, it’s national politics,” he said. “They care about the hot-button issues, the big issues. Local government just isn’t something that really catches their eye.”

Germain said he believes the length of his internship is basically up to his discretion. He will be required to write some sort of narrative or essay when the internship has been completed, he said, as it will be included in his high school transcript.

When asked for a critique of Germain’s work at Town Hall, Suhoski told the Athol Daily News, “I’ve been extremely impressed with Cody’s intelligence and interest in the multiple facets of municipal government. We have a need across the commonwealth to attract quality individuals into public service as our current crop of town managers, administrators, finance officials and others reach retirement age. If Cody is emblematic of our next generation of leaders, we should be in good hands.”

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.

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