University student runs for mayor

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What does Dave Bronconnier have in common with University of Calgary chemical engineering student Jeremy Zhao?

They are both running for mayor in the City of Calgary's upcoming municipal election, along with seven other candidates. Zhao may have similar political aspirations to Bronconnier; however, his level of political experience is quite different. Bronconnier has already served two terms as Calgary's mayor, whereas Zhao is 19 years-old and the first-generation Canadian born to Chinese immigrant-parents is still in school. While Zhao's chances for being elected are slim, his decision to run for candidacy is an interesting story in itself.

"I have one life to live, so I might as well make the most of it and try to contribute to society as much as I can," said Zhao. "Even though I'm young, I'm still passionate about it, and I encourage people to take action because I don't see a lot of adults in this city taking action."

Zhao explained how disappointed he was when he learned only 18 per cent of eligible voters showed up at the polls for the 2004 municipal election. After realizing the majority of Calgarians weren't taking action to make their city a better place, Zhao decided to get directly involved.

"It leaves me almost no choice but to run because my needs and my wants aren't being met right now," said Zhao. "I see far too many young families struggling out there and too many people cramming onto too few buses and trains. I don't see the government, with a booming economy like ours, doing anything about it."

While age often points to experience, many leaders have started off young including Canada's own Pierre Trudaeu. In 2002, two 19-year-old mayoral candidates won their respective races against much more experienced candidates in the Pennsylvania towns of Mercer and Mount Carbon. In 2005, 18-year-old Michael Sessions beat out 51-year-old incumbent Doug Ingles for mayor of Hillsdale, Michigan.

"In 2004, 82 per cent of eligible voters were sitting at home on the day of the election," said Zhao. "They weren't taking action and I thought at the time, 'these are the people I'm supposed to be looking up to and following their lead and they're supposed to be making my city a better place. A better place that I'm going to inherit ten, twenty years down the road."