Zachary Peterson graduated from Kasson-Mantorville High School in 2015. Less than four years later, he will be serving the high school and all schools in the district as a member of the school board.
“I know it’s going to be a lot of learning,” Peterson said. “That’s all I’m doing right now is talking to school board people, asking what their biggest challenges are.”
The 21-year-old is the youngest a candidate can be to run for office in Minnesota.
He secured one of the board’s three open seats after earning 2,109 votes in the general election Nov. 6 — ousting an incumbent by 230 votes.
“I’m trying to learn pretty much everything,” he said, “because a mentor once told me that you don’t know what you don’t know.”
Kasson-Mantorville Superintendent Mark Matuska said he is not only excited to work with Peterson on the board, he is looking forward to helping him get the training and introspective lessons he might need in the role.
“We’re always excited to see new members come on the board of Kasson-Mantorville and offer us a unique perspective of what the voters elected to put them in for,” Matuska said. “I love talent, and I think Zakh has talent, so it really doesn’t matter what age they are to me as long as they are willing to put in time and bring a lot of value to the school board.”
Peterson said he’s always had the idea of getting involved in politics. He chose the school board since he thinks many issues come back to an anchor in education.
“I probably would’ve done it either way,” he said, “but I would say my passion for education was really supercharged and fast-tracked when the school went bankrupt.”
That school was McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul. Peterson’s goal of studying music business and percussion performance was cut short when the school went bankrupt and closed. After a short stint at Augsburg, which would’ve ended in extra time spent earning a degree, he opted to leave entirely and follow a new path and plan.
He said he understands — and hopes to share — his opinions about school preparing students for life outside academics.
“I think people can get blinded by the idea of preparing kids for college, but how do we get them ready for life?” he said. “I want school to be less about how to take a test. I would want to bring in Life 101.”
He said he hopes to balance his on-the-job-learning with a focus on the district’s vision during his four years on the board.
“I think supporters wanted something new, and they’re glad that I’m young,” he said. “I want to stress to the board, when we’re talking about budget stuff, I want to be the one pushing our vision of being ‘committed to excellence,’ but also the person who makes sure we’re all in agreement and we all understand what the main goal is behind everything we do as a board.”
Being in three bands and having those few years of experience from McNally, Peterson said he hopes to bring his knowledge of business and entrepreneurship in music management to the position when dealing with budgets, agreements and resolving issues.
But currently looking ahead at his time on the Kasson-Mantorville School Board, the 21-year-old said he’s honored, humbled, and looking forward to the opportunity.
“I’m grateful that people voted for me,” Peterson said. “I’m very motivated to learn everything now that I got in.”