Young people do not vote in the numbers that we could be. We often do not see public office as viable career path, or even as a means of changing our communities. Young people do not value the importance of local government. We lack a voice nationally, but we also lack a voice right here within our own neighborhoods.
If we want to be better represented in the policies passed on a local level, if there are issues that matter to us in our communities, political engagement is as much an option for us as it is for the older establishments. Name recognition and large donor bases are not all that matters in local campaigns — sincere commitment to one’s community and a drive to learn pays off more than connections.
In North Royalton, 19-year-old Anton Krieger is challenging the expectations of young people. In his run for Ward 1 councilman, Krieger emphasizes the importance of North Royalton families, protecting North Royalton’s green spaces and natural landscapes, and filling out North Royalton’s empty strip malls.
“It’s not so much me wanting to get involved in politics so much as wanting to serve the people of North Royalton the best way I know how,” says Krieger.
It’s no walk in the park; running a campaign is tiring work. Krieger will officially file his petition on June 3rd with over 90 signatures collected, and dozens more doors knocked in the process (all while continuing his classes at Cleveland State University, where he studies political science and history, and working as a server at local restaurant Tony Maloney’s).
I asked what challenges Krieger has faced being a young candidate.
“Just being able to earn people’s respect. Knocking doors, when people see a fresh young face, I think there is a level of excitement but at the same time — how much does this kid actually know? But my message has really resonated with the residents. I am also going to have a significantly less money than my opponent, making it more difficult for me to advertise and market myself.”
But there are some benefits too, Krieger says. “My heart is really in it, I’m really passionate — I don’t know necessarily if that’s a product of being young but I definitely do have the energy for the position. I can go above and beyond, working to show the residents that I am involved, I am committed, that I’ll be there to take their calls.”
As far as advice for young people who are interested in pursuing a public office but are afraid, Krieger enthusiastically says, “Have the confidence in yourself, confidence that you know your community. Be willing to go out and knock doors, talk to people, and use that energy and dedication to your advantage.”
Anton will be holding a fundraiser on Thu 6/13. Hosted in former Ward 1 councilwoman Denise Bobulsky’s home in North Royalton, Anton invites folks from across the city and the county to chat and share ideas. View more information on his fundraiser here.
[Written by Jenna Thomas]