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Phoenix Forward

Phoenix graduate takes his hometown’s helm

Mayor Matt Spencer

University of Phoenix graduate Matthew Spencer was contemplating how to enter the field of public administration when he remembered the famous phrase by former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill: “All politics is local.” So Spencer decided to start in his hometown of Somersworth, N.H., by running for mayor.

Spencer won the election in November 2011, after door-to-door campaigning in the 12,000-resident community. Since taking office, his life has been a whirlwind of meetings, speeches and challenging projects — including a plan to bring University of Phoenix to his corner of New England.

One of Somersworth’s schools now stands vacant, after closing due to an outdated sprinkler system. “I am hoping University of Phoenix will be one of the tenants of that building,” Spencer says. “There is no campus in New Hampshire, and we are right on the border of Maine as well.” He has met with University representatives to discuss the site’s potential. The Friends of Somersworth, a citizens’ group, is working to revitalize the old building.

I want to make a huge difference. I definitely plan on moving up the ladder after I'm done making a difference here.

Spencer began his career in the U.S. Coast Guard, serving for more than 20 years as a weapons and ammunition expert and as a maritime law instructor, among other roles. During that time, he earned his associate degree in liberal arts and a Bachelor of Science in Business with a concentration in Marketing from University of Phoenix. He later received a master’s degree in public administration from the University of New Hampshire. In early 2011, Spencer interned with U.S. Congressman Frank Guinta, R-N.H. He is also a licensed realtor.

“Matt has been a public service leader for years,” says Mohammad Agwa, PhD, one of Spencer’s instructors in the MBA program at the University of Phoenix Boston Campus. “[He] followed the political landscape in the city for a good while before making any moves.”

Agwa describes Spencer as someone who is passionate about public service, with “common sense, honesty, intelligence, knowledge and dedication.”

Spencer says University of Phoenix was a valuable support as he prepared for his current role. For instance, he notes, what he learned in marketing classes “helped during the campaign” and also helped him “market the city to potential manufacturing agencies.”

Spencer pinpoints two main goals for his two-year mayoral stint: to maintain Somersworth’s property tax rate and to bring manufacturing operations to the city’s industrial areas. “If we can get manufacturing out there, we can produce products right here in the U.S. and put some of our residents back to work,” he says.

He also plans to run for a second mayoral term in 2014, and he hopes to eventually run for the U.S. Congress.

“I want to make a huge difference,” Spencer says. “I definitely plan on moving up the ladder after I’m done making a difference here.”

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