Laurie Melchionne, Editor in Chief & Jessica Peoples, Assistant Editor
The key to making a difference in politics, according to NJ Senator Vincent Polistina, is starting early. Representing District 2, Polistina received his bachelor’s from Rutgers University in Bioenvironmental Engineering, which led to his early career in engineering at Polistina & Associates. With his company, Polistina mostly conducts municipal engineering for local governments throughout Gerber Township, Galloway Township, Linwood, and Atlantic County. Engineering always integrated Polstina with community growth, which made running for senator seem like a natural transition.
Polistina, who grew up a block from the Seaview Country Club and graduated from Absegami High School in 1989, has witnessed Stockton’s growth from a young age. A member of the William J. Hughes’ Center Legislator-in-Residence, Polistina has further integrated himself into the Stockton community ever since he became a senator in 2021.
In the early 2000s, Polistina was a member of the Republican Club in Egg Harbor Township, where he supported candidates during the election process.
“In 2007, I never thought I would run for office myself at all,” said Polistina.
That changed that year when there was a split in the Republican party when Senator Gormley retired. With advice from the then-mayor of Egg Harbor Township Sonny McCollough, Polistina ran on the General Assembly ticket and served in that body from 2008-to 2011. He subsequently ran for senate but lost that first campaign because at the time, post-Iraq War, the Republican Party was not widely in favor.
However, it was this loss that made Polistina’s career work out when it should have. Timing, according to Polistina, is everything. At the time of his first campaign run, his children were still in school, which gave Polstina more time to prioritize family before plunging into the fast-paced world of politics.
“It’s everything from my standpoint,” said Polistina. “But you have got to work hard, you have to put in the time to put in the work, you’ve got to get yourself educated, or get yourself trained if you want to go into a trade, and do everything you can to give yourself as many skills as possible that will give you a path or opportunity or possibility.”
If you’re considering a career in politics, your major, background, or prior interests should not deter you. Skills from one’s academic background can be utilized in a broad range of the political world, whether it is communications, engineering, or political science.
“For anyone struggling with their career, there’s an interim period of time before you actually start your career,” Polistina said. “Figure out something else you can learn such as civic engagement, or become an intern in the political office or in campaigns. Give yourself the opportunity to volunteer and just give yourself as many experiences and skills as you can.”
It is these skills, according to Polistina, that educate you and open the path to any potential career you might consider after college regardless of your major.
What is the most important skill to utilize post-graduation?
“Public speaking,” answered Polistina, who explained how crucial it is to get comfortable speaking in front of large crowds. “Don’t let the fact that you have anxiety prevent you from getting involved. So [do] things that make you more comfortable communicating, whether it’s a communications class or a public speaking class […] doing anything that gives you the ability to effectively communicate with people is huge.”
Not letting technology distract you is also huge. Today, when the world is immersed in the screens of our devices, it is easy for young professionals to forget the basics: eye contact, a firm handshake, or ignoring your phone when it beeps during a conference or a lunch meeting. It is these details, however minimal in your mind, that will make all the difference while cultivating your post-college network and eventually, during a job interview.
So after you’ve made it in engineering and New Jersey state politics, what comes next? For someone like Polistina, who has cultivated a career in South Jersey, all eyes turn to Atlantic City.
“Between the Energy Master Plan and all the things related to clean energy and renewable energy, you’re going to hear a lot about that over the next couple of years,” Polistina promised. “The wind farms are going to start kicking off and you’re going to see a lot of activity related to the energy sector and continuing to redevelop Atlantic City.”
Stockton’s AC Summer Experience program will be a major aspect of rebuilding Atlantic City to its greatest potential, something that the university has been kickstarting for years now.
If you’re part of the Summer Experience, where you can attend classes in Atlantic City for free housing and tuition, Polistina hopes to focus on setting up housing in Atlantic City to link students already familiar with the area with employers. If you’re a student in Atlantic City and work part-time in the community, such as at Spencer’s or Old Navy, you can move higher in those fields post-graduation for something to fall back on. With this plan, residential housing for students and alumni will be developed.
“If you’re used to Atlantic City, you want to stay there and try to partner with those same employers, as you’re going out and working full time, to have residential development there where you can move right into that residential development. There, you can still work for that place that you had an internship with and have the employer subsidize or pay the rent.”
If you are interested in the Atlantic City Summer Experience, applications are open now! Students can apply here, with priority applications due on May 1, 2022.
Senator Polistina was happy to hear from interested students and stated his openness to visiting the university again. For more information on Senator Polistina, his biography and contact information can be found at this link.