Nikolay Galtsev won't lie: His inspiration to apply for West Linn's Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) came after he discovered the popular television show "Parks and Recreation."
Galtsev, a 17-year-old junior at West Linn High School, has long been interested in government — ever since he moved to the United States from Russia six years ago. But it was a satirical television comedy that pushed him to act on that interest — and to his shock, he was selected as one of four new members of the TAB at a Feb. 13 City Council meeting.
"I saw 'Parks and Rec' in September (2016) and then I binge-watched the whole thing," Galtsev said. "I'm a big fan of the show and I'm like, 'Ok, I want to get involved in the government in the future. So what can I do now?'"
Galtsev was particularly surprised to be selected given that he's only lived in West Linn since October 2016; before that, he was in Phoenix, Arizona, where his family originally moved upon leaving Russia. It was in Phoenix that Galtsev became interested in transportation issues — particularly the concept of public transportation.
"In Phoenix, buses come whenever they want as opposed to on schedule, but they come frequently," Galtsev said. "And here, buses come on schedule but very infrequently. I wanted to see more frequency."
Galtsev recently moved from the Willamette area to a home closer to the high school, which left him hamstrung when it came to transportation to a job he'd recently gotten in the Willamette area.
"I couldn't keep it because I realized that the situation of public transit wouldn't allow me to go to that job, because I don't have a car and cars are expensive," he said. "If teens want to work in old Willamette and they live up on the hill or near Lake Oswego, they can't because they don't have reliable transportation there. I think it's very important that we expand our public transportation network, and that the youth community voice has a place in the City Council."
And that voice can't belong solely to Galtsev; as part of his new role, Galtsev is taking pains to poll his fellow students on what they perceive to be the city's biggest transportation needs.
"I've been walking around the high school talking to people about what they want to see," Galtsev said. "I've gotten a ton of recommendations to fix Willamette Drive, the road that leads into Lake Oswego. The moment you cross into Lake Oswego, the road gets immensely better — there's no potholes in there.
"This is West Linn, how are we not fixing it?"
He is aware, of course, that the road is managed by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) but he still feels that more can be done from the City's side.
"It's a state road in Lake Oswego, and they're fixing it," he said. "I think we can do better."
Looking ahead, Galtsev hopes that serving on a local advisory board is the first step in what could be a career in public service.
"I figured that if I, in the future, want to try and help our state and the people of this country, I should start here," Galtsev said. "After school and everything, I want to run for public office, maybe hold a local government job before that. I think my skills are best applied in government."
He added that "this sounds very naive," but it's a path he wants to commit to.
"If I do anything to improve the lives of people, it's worth it," he said.
West Linn Tidings reporter Patrick Malee can be reached at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or [email protected]