University Student in Athens Mayoral RacePosted: April 15, 2010
Getting a job straight out of college is something that every graduate hopes for. For Glenn Stegall, that job could be mayor of Athens.
The senior political-science major from Douglas, Ga. announced his candidacy for the position on Nov. 15, 2009.
“Most people wait until it is convenient for them to do something that will help other people.” said Stegall. “I don’t want to wait until I am 30 or 40 to get involved because it maybe too late. When you can potentially help people you should to do it right away.”
Stegall plans to graduate from the University of Georgia a semester early, following the Fall 2010 semester, in order to fully dedicate his focus on politics. The next mayor will take office in January 2011.
When he originally decided to run for political office two years ago, Stegall considered running for several offices. His interest in education made him especially consider the school board. In the end, mayor seemed the best fit.
“Mayor is the position where I feel I can do the most good,” he said. “The mayor’s office offers a panorama of the entire county and the issues that we face. You get to affect all of those issues and have the opportunity to set a vision for where you want the city to go.”
For Stegall, that vision is progress.
“Innovation is the new goal,” he said. “What we have to do now is not just elect someone who will sustain where we are as a city right now. We need someone who can see beyond that to where we could be. I believe I am that person. I have proposed several innovative ideas that have already gained some traction.
When asked what his hypothetical first act in office would be, Stegall laughed and said that he had considered that very question earlier that morning.
“My first act as mayor would be to begin to re-shift our focus as a community from sustaining what we have to where we are going.” he said. “I would meet with every department head and find out what we can do within that department to move this city forward. I want to get everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction.”
Although his youth and political inexperience are the obvious knocks against him, Stegall hopes to use these traits to distinguish him.
“Responsibility does not have an age limit has been our slogan,” Stegall said. “If I leave any kind of legacy, it will be to have shown young people that there is a lot more that we can do in our community and to shape the world that will one day be run by us.”
By the time of the election, Stegall will be 21-years-old, the minimum age to qualify for the position.
Amongst those who oppose Stegall for the position is another student, Brandon Shinholser. In a race that nearly never has candidates in this demographic, there are suddenly two.
“I commend him for what he is doing.” said Stegall of Shinholser. “He has the same commitment for not waiting until it is convenient as I do. We often get clumped together because we are both students, when our campaigns are quite different. I hope that people stop clumping us together and start judging us on our individual successes.”
Stegall hopes to use his age is to connect with a younger demographic of voters.
“The medium age in Athens is 26,” he said. “That surprises me because our representation seems so much older than that. It is often difficult to get younger people to vote.”
If he is to have success during the election, Stegall must involve this demographic and get them involved in the political process.
“We need to get people who don’t see how politics affects their lives reengaged,” said Stegall. “My campaign has been working on registering new voters, getting those already registered more information on our campaign. The key is going to be an overall increase in turnout.”
A keystone in his campaign has been the use of social media like Facebook. His campaign also created a contest to give away a new iPad to involved voters.
“[During the 2008 presidential election] Barack Obama was able to make politics not look so boring,” said Stegall. “He made it cool while at the same time informing people how they can change their community by participating in politics. I would like to make this election cool and get young people interested and inform them of all the things we have the power to do.”
Being a full-time student and a potential politician can take its toll.
“It’s like working two full-time jobs.” he said. “I am taking 16 hours of classes which is more than a full load. It equates to about a 12-hour work day. When you like this kind of stuff, it doesn’t stress you out. I wouldn’t be able to do this if I didn’t like it.”
Regardless of the outcome of the election, Stegall has made his name known and has already gained valuable experiences for his future.
The general primary for Athens Clark-County takes place on July 20. The general election is on Nov. 2.
If he is declared the next mayor of Athens, the 21-year-old will be just old enough to pop open the champagne in celebration.