Nonprofit management sophomore Nick Forbes Shannon is used to people scoffing at his age and ambition. Shannon, by age 17, created a nonprofit organization exclusively run by teens and served on a council allotting thousands of dollars in grant money to local organizations.
Now Shannon is vying for one of three open seats in the coming 2014 Tempe City Council election.
“I won’t even be 20 until after the primaries,” Shannon said. “That’s probably the biggest thing. I think a lot of people probably think I’m not mature enough for this. That’s their decision, but I’m here to prove them wrong.”
Although the ballot is not finalized, there is a good chance he will face incumbents and longtime Tempe residents. Shannon, who grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., will have lived in Tempe just long enough to meet the two-year residential requirement for candidates.
Shannon said his move to Arizona has proven difficult in that it left a void for the volunteering opportunities to which he was so accustomed in Ann Arbor.
“Having come out to university, starting to get settled in, that (volunteering) kind of fell off a little bit,” he said. “I look at this city council opportunity as a chance to get involved in my community and present some ideas I think that aren’t being capitalized on in city council.”
Shannon will need to acquire a minimum of 1,129 legible signatures from registered Tempe voters by May 29. He said he felt this was a manageable goal, in light of the student-driven campaign he plans to run.
“I hope that the student body will be the majority of my vote,” he said. “Our biggest concern right now is to try and figure out the easiest way to get ASU students registered as Tempe voters.”
Shannon’s campaign managers are students themselves. Business sophomore Julie Issenberg and nonprofit management junior Alex Milliken are responsible for ensuring Shannon gains the student outreach on which he is counting. He said he plans to run a youth-based platform, uniting the University community with Tempe.
If elected, Shannon said he hopes to establish a free sports league program for youth featuring a nutritional aspect. He said he would like ASU students to coach and officiate the program. This would be one of many moves to connect middle-school aged students in the area to college students, fostering mentorships.
Tempe City Councilman Kolby Granville, who ran for City Council in 2000 as a graduate student, said what a candidate may have working against him or her in an election like this is funding and time.
“They would need to knock on 20,000 doors and raise $60,000 dollars,” he said. “You might not win with that, but without that, you’re not really even running. This past election, I just started making phone calls. I made, I want to say, 850 phone calls asking people for money.”
Granville said this year’s election differs from years past in that it is not solely a city council election. Those who would have come out to the polls to vote for representatives to the House will have the chance to vote for city council members. He said this may indirectly lead to uninformed voters.
“The way it had been done before was the city council election was a separate election, so nobody was an accidental voter,” he said. “I don’t think anyone really knows the answer to how this is going to affect our elections except we have a lot more people we’ll be campaigning to.”
Although Shannon has these factors working against him, Granville said his age might be seen as a positive.
“A very large percentage of Tempe is young, and the council does not reflect that same age,” he said. “The average age of the council and the average age of the city of Tempe do not match. I think anytime you have a diversity of opinion – whether it’s socioeconomic, cultural, gender, age – at the table, the better off you are.”
Chris Lemon, youth council adviser at the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, said he felt Shannon is unique in that his experiences are coupled with a genuine passion for bettering the community. Shannon served as a youth council member at AAACF along with 25 other high school students, and was responsible for allotting $70,000 in grant money to local organizations.
“What he has, which a lot of people don’t have, is experience,” he said. “Yes, he’s young, but he has come into the table with more experience than some adults would have in the political arena. My hope is that he is defined by his accomplishments.”
Nick Margolis, former coordinator at Ann Arbor Teens for Kids, echoed the sentiment. Shannon, in high school, created the nonprofit AATFK, which would eventually become Ann Arbor’s third largest volunteer group in the area with 140-plus members. The organization pairs youth with volunteering jobs.
“I think his resume speaks for itself,” he said. “It will honestly just come down to how he campaigns and how he will get the student vote. If he succeeds in that, he will make a difference in the community if elected.”
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