Student Legislator begins Second Term in NH Statehouse

May 15, 2009
By Doug Gavel

As a first term state representative in New Hampshire from 2006-08, Marilinda Garcia MPP 2010 gained a reputation as a thoughtful and determined young Republican legislator, focusing much of her efforts on streamlining the state’s family court system, particularly in the areas of abuse/neglect petitions, adoption processes and juvenile justice. She served on the Committee on Children and Family Law, and appeared destined for a long term political career in the Granite State.

But then last fall something unforeseen happened. Garcia lost her bid for re-election by a razor-thin margin. By then, however, Garcia was in the midst of her first year at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), finding the academic environment to be as challenging and enriching as life in the New Hampshire statehouse.

“I have to say that many of my most valuable learning moments have been discussions with my fellow classmates that oftentimes stemmed from what we covered in class,” she said. “In just about every class however, I have had a ‘eureka’ moment that elucidated an issue or policy consideration I had previously encountered while in the legislature.”

Earlier this year, Garcia was confronted with a unique opportunity to reclaim her lost legislative seat when a special election was called, and she took advantage of it – winning a four candidate primary on March 24, and then beating her opponent by a 62 percent to 38 percent margin in the general election on April 28. On May 6 Garcia was sworn into office again, and she now has the unique qualification of being both a Harvard student and an elected official.

Fulfilling both roles simultaneously won’t be easy, Garcia admits, but she is prepared to multi-task once the legislative session begins in January of 2010.

“My decision to run was contingent on House leadership's willingness to assign me to a committee that typically has a smaller stream of legislation running through it, thereby reducing the time I will have to spend in committee and at public hearings,” she said. “So, yes, it will be challenging, but it will be feasible.”

Many New Hampshire Republicans are celebrating Garcia’s return to the statehouse, including former Governor John H. Sununu who told the Manchester Union-Leader that “she represents the kind of young Republican that is certainly important to the party and since she is so informed and well-spoken, we're looking for great things from her.”

Garcia is a vehement believer in the ability of state and local government to craft sound public policy at the ground level, and to involve citizens in the process.

“There is something very refreshing about state and local politics, in that policy changes tend to literally hit close to home for the citizens, and in a state like New Hampshire they can involve themselves in the legislative process fairly easily,” she said. “Many citizens testify at public hearings, or run into their local policymaker in the supermarket and express their opinions. State policy making is a microcosm of what happens on the federal level, with less of a global perspective, but with a more tangible and direct impact on citizens.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming legislative session, Garcia says much that she has learned at the Kennedy School will have a direct impact on her work in Concord.

“While I think my HKS education would have been invaluable to my effectiveness during my first term in office, having it the other way around has enhanced my learning here. Overall, going into my second term, I feel much more confident and better equipped to represent my constituents and be an informed and effective policymaker,” she said.

Marilinda Garcia MPP 2010

Marilinda Garcia MPP 2010 was sworn into office again on May 6. Photo credit John Wesolowski.

Home page photo by Jesse Lacasse anorchardaway.com

"I have to say that many of my most valuable learning moments have been discussions with my fellow classmates that oftentimes stemmed from what we covered in class," - Marilinda Garcia MPP 2010

Marilinda Garcia MPP 2010

Garcia is a vehement believer in the ability of state and local government to craft sound public policy at the ground level, and to involve citizens in the process. Photo credit Bianca Garcia.


John F. Kennedy School of Government 79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
617-495-1100 Get Directions Visit Contact Page