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Kevin J. Nolan is unabashed about comparing himself with Ronald Reagan. ''We have four things in common,'' he says. ''We are both fans of Calvin Coolidge, we both enjoy jelly beans, we both were actors, and we are both hearing-impaired.''
Mr. Nolan, who was born deaf, understates his condition to make a point: He is handling his new political office without much difficulty. After a campaign against William C. Ames, a Republican who had been on the Northampton City Council for 20 years, Mr. Nolan, a Democrat, was elected to the City Council Nov. 5.
It is a part-time job for the 40-year-old Mr. Nolan, who is a guidance counselor at the Clarke School for the Deaf, which is in the ''five-college area,'' including Smith, Mount Holyoke and Amherst Colleges, in this city of 30,000 people.
On the wall of his school office, amid pictures of his family, there really is a portrait of Coolidge, the lawyer from Northampton who became President.
''For the last 10 years,'' Mr. Nolan said in an interview, ''I wanted to go into politics but kept putting it off for lack of time and because I didn't know how people would react.'' Speech Is Relatively Clear
Communications was mostly a one-way problem: Although Mr. Nolan has never heard spoken language, he speaks relatively clearly. As a boy, he attended the Clarke School, which says it was the first in the country to teach its deaf students speech. It does not teach sign language, stressing adaptation to the hearing world instead.
Mr. Nolan participates in the City Council's meetings every other week with the help of Dan Salvucci, who an interprets the proceedings for him. Facing Mr. Nolan, Mr. Salvucci silently repeats the comments made, providing the tone of the remarks through exaggerated facial expressions and occasional gestures.
When Mr. Nolan wants to say something, he does, and if his speech needs interpreting for the Council members, Mr. Salvucci supplies it.
Mr. Nolan decided to run for office last July and, with his friend and unofficial campaign manager, Bob Cahillane, sought votes door to door last fall. ''We went to nursing homes - we did a lot of basic footwork,'' said Mr. Cahillane, son of a former Mayor, James Cahillane. ''Our timing was right on. People were looking for a change. It got to a point where Mr. Ames was following him around.''
William Ames, Mr. Nolan's opponent, called for a recount after Mr. Nolan won by seven votes. The recount showed Mr. Nolan the victor by 10 votes. 'A Real Fine Addition'
''I think he's a real fine addition to the City Council, and it certainly says something about Northampton that he was elected,'' said Mayor David Musante. ''The people looked at Kevin and decided that he could do a fine job with or without a handicap.''
Telephone conversations pose a problem because most constituents do not have the special equipment required. So Mr. Nolan takes messages from callers at the Clarke School and he then pays them a personal visit.
''I received three calls from voters complaining about various things, and I came to their house and sat down and listened to them,'' said Mr. Nolan. ''It's better for me to come to their house so that we can have a face-to-face conversation. I know it's a double job for me, but I asked for it.''
Mr. Nolan's wife, Linda Howe, teaches at the Clarke School, where the two met. They have three children, Kevin Jr., 11, Kristi Ann, 8, and Keith, 3, all of them deaf from birth, like their parents. A Role Model for Students
Mr. Nolan's election has inspired students at Clarke. ''I think his election demonstrates to our students that they can set their sights high and aim high,'' said Dr. Bill Blevins, assistant to the school's president. ''Kevin took a step forward into the hearing world. It makes him an example and a role model.''
Mr. Nolan traveled to Washington for President Reagan's State of the Union speech, and he plans another trip there next Friday for a White House reception celebrating the 10th anniversary of passage of the Federal Special Education Act.
Dr. Blevins has traveled with Mr. Nolan as his interpreter and plans to attend the reception with him.
Mr. Nolan is a member of Northampton's Handicapped Services Committee, the Executive Office of Human Services Task Force on Handicapped and the Western Massachusetts Professional Group of the Deaf. He is the first deaf guidance counselor at the Clarke School.
''Students will ask me if they can really become whatever they want to,'' he said. ''I always say yes - try it. If you fail, I'll respect you because you tried. I suppose I finally took my own advice.''
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