Jason Nastke is a lot like other 19-year-olds. He studies finance in a community college, loves to drive his car—in fact, he has been in three accidents—and enjoys kicking back and watching videos with pals in the Upstate New York village of Valatie (pop. 1,500).
Where Nastke differs from other teens is on the job. Since April 1 he has been Valatie’s mayor. Not that public office has changed him. “Jason never returned phone calls to begin with,” says his friend Kari Van Buren, also 19, a sophomore at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I.
These days, that could be because Nastke, who still lives at home with his parents, is busy fielding calls from the Letterman show and the people at Today, who featured him as one of America’s youngest mayors. “I’m the kind of guy who likes to fight for things,” says Nastke, explaining why he ran for office.
Indeed, he has no office per se, not even a desk, at Valatie’s Village Hall, and he will likely earn every cent of his $2,700 yearly salary. Local residents are currently embroiled in a bitter dispute over the placement of a new water tank; last February, a public meeting on the subject ended when one citizen pushed another through a window. (The pushee was treated for deep cuts.)
That event inspired Nastke, a real estate agent who had already served on the four-member Village Board for a year, to run for mayor. He promised villagers a return to civility—and drew nearly twice as many votes as incumbent Charles White, 65. “Jason has a way about him,” says State Assemblyman Pat Manning, 33, a fellow Republican. “He can calm his sharpest critics.”
But is there any chance the new mayor will let the election go to his head? “Hizzoner?” he jokes. “Come on, I’m just Jason with a new job.”