BECCA: Nate, wow! I’m sitting here on the bleachers at the Rec Center. We just heard the results read out for the City Council race, and you won! So … what are your next steps? How do you feel? Are you a full-blown politician that we are all going to have to hate now?

NATE: My very first next step was to take down lawn signs the morning after the election! Now I need to do some serious thinking about priorities. I have lots of ideas, but I’ll be only one member of a five-member council, and also you can’t do everything all at once. I guess I am literally a politician, and I’m sure some people will hate me, but I’ll try to do what’s right regardless of what people think of me personally. I suppose that most politicians try to do that, but of course it’s harder in practice than in theory.

BECCA: Can you give me some sense of your priorities that you personally would like to see accomplished in Rockland?

NATE: Yes! Addressing the cost and availability of housing for everyone regardless of wealth is a big and complex issue, and it needs to be one that the city prioritizes. This is linked with the process of gentrification, whereby existing people and cultures are displaced by people and cultures of more wealth, which I feel is a real threat to Rockland. We need to find a way to retain our mixed character, in which people of different backgrounds and economic circumstances rub shoulders — at least, more than they do in a lot of other places. Other priorities: participatory and inclusive public meetings, environmental sustainability, and long-term planning.

BECCA: I’m into these, but I believe as a society we need to eradicate radically different financial circumstances, rather than try to simply make sure rich people “rub shoulders” with poor people. What are some of the things you learned while campaigning? Did you talk to people that you hadn’t connected with before?

NATE: I did some door-to-door, though not as much as I would have liked. I was invited to speak to various groups, and I tried to meet new people wherever I went. The most striking thing I found is that people are not easily categorized. For example, I met people who were generally on the left but favored relatively tight regulation of cannabis, and people generally on the right who want the city to attend to climate change. Perhaps labels like “left” and “right” aren’t even useful locally. Several young people mentioned the importance of affordable rentals. Several people of various ages mentioned the importance of somehow mitigating the opioid crisis.

BECCA: You have been a local community organizer, but now you will be in an actual position to make policy. You will also be approving (and/or critiquing) the budget and its attendant expression of our community’s priorities. Not only will you now be a city councilor but you co-write a column about Rockland-related issues in The Free Press. Are you worried that it might give you an outsized amount of power? And are you worried about the column in terms of making sure we continue to be authentic and take on issues that need to be taken on?

NATE: It remains to be seen whether and how we can keep doing this column and avoid the pitfalls you mention. I’ve resigned from other municipal volunteer commitments in part to limit the amount of power I have (also, frankly, to save time). One idea would be to simply not write about specific issues that are before council. Another approach might be to not decide on an approach: we could take each situation as it comes. As for authenticity, that’s a tough one; this column is a place to cut loose, at least to an extent, from the rules and conventions that bind in Council Chambers. But I’m sure our understanding of this will evolve through time.

BECCA: Those approaches sound pretty fair to me. I would prefer to take the stance that we will make it up as we go along. I definitely wouldn’t want to be barred from writing about issues concerning Council since that’s vital to the whole city and so many things we both care about. You’ve mentioned before that as a councilor you have to represent all residents of Rockland. That’s a noble idea, and I think you should listen to and talk to every single Rocklander, but I don’t see how it’s possible to represent every single person in the city, often with extremely divergent views and even values. The risk with trying to bridge all the gaps is that you get to the kind of “common ground” that can be code for nothing changing at all, the most banal blah.