By Alexa Millinger
Matt Grimes, a 4L evening student, won a seat on Brookfield’s Zoning Commission in November’s local elections. Grimes, who ran as a Republican, came in first out of five candidates in the race, securing one of the two available Zoning Commission seats.
Currently working full-time as a bond claim manager at The Hartford, Grimes has a formidable history of town government service. After graduating from the University of Richmond in 2001, Grimes became a member of the Brookfield Board of Education while working for AIG in New York City. He eventually be became the Board’s Chairman, in which he served from 2003 to 2005. At the time, Grimes was the youngest Board of Education Chairman in the United States at age 24.
Grimes worked for a time as the Chief of Staff to the First Selectman of Bethel. In 2008, Brookfield’s Board of Selectmen nominated Grimes to fill an open alternate spot on the town’s Zoning Commission.
Grimes had no formal experience with zoning issues, but his grandfather had been the Chairman of the Planning Commission and his father worked in the construction industry, and he saw it as an opportunity to serve his town.
“When I got on Zoning, I had no clue about land use. I just had a law student background…but I knew how town government worked,” he said.
After serving as an alternate on the Zoning Commission for several years, the town Republican caucus nominated Grimes to run for an open regular member seat in the November election. Grimes spent the ensuing months campaigning on the Republican slate with sixteen other candidates for town offices, attending various town events and writing position papers for local newspapers. Grimes said constituents’ main concerns when voting for Zoning Commission members is that they will be treated fairly when they come in front of the commission.
His November win secured him a four-year term on the Zoning Commission where he will help ensure that all new building plans fall within zoning regulations. Grimes said his legal education has helped him on everything from understanding zoning case law to interpreting the regulations.
“I’m definitely a different commission member than I would have been had I not gone to law school,” he said. Brookfield Zoning Commission Chairman, Bill Mercer, is also a UConn Law graduate, as are many of the attorneys who come before the Zoning Commission.
Grimes said town government work, especially zoning, is perfect for those who want to get involved in their towns, but don’t have a lot of time to commit. “Land use is such an important function of town governments. And it’s very easy to learn,” he said.