Age is just a number. That is the reply given to the naysayers by 19-year-old Nicole Burlew, a political science major at Towson and mayoral candidate for Aberdeen, Md.
"Since when is caring, being compassionate, and determined age exclusive?" the junior asks of those questioning whether she is too young for the job.
Burlew, who is running as a Republican in the Nov. 6 election, said youth is among the reasons for her run for mayor.
"...One of the initial reasons [to run] was to show the youth that our voice can be heard and does count," she said. "I am running for mayor because I think I can make a difference in Aberdeen."
She said the campaign was something she has hoped to do for some time.
"Everyone wishes that they could win the lottery or get a perfect score on the SAT. My campaign ambitions are along those lines, I always wished I could help the people in Aberdeen city. And when the chance presented itself, I went for it," she said.
As for her age, Burlew, who is not old enough yet to have voted in an election, is not concerned.
"If it did not concern the members of the city council who created and maintained the city charter, then I don't see why I should be concerned," she said.
Aberdeen does not have an age requirement for mayor or city council. There is also no experience level requirement. Mayoral candidate Michael E. Bennett is a retired state trooper, and incumbent Fred S. Simmons was an insurance salesman when he first ran.
"What concerns me most is that you do not even need a high school diploma or a financial or criminal background check for this job, which, if I became mayor, I would change," Burlew said. "Everyone should check their own city charters and see what it takes to run for office. I applied based on the qualifications and experience level they set. What sets me apart is my desire to be a contributing member of my city."
Since beginning her campaign less than a month ago, Burlew has worked up a full plan for Aberdeen, campaigned through the city, and gained supporters, while juggling classes and midterms.
Burlew said the main thing she hopes to accomplish if elected is to increase Aberdeen's funding.
"After all is said and done, that is really what Aberdeen needs, either from banks, investors, the federal, state and county governments, and as a last resort, the taxpayers. That is the solution to many of the problems facing Aberdeen," she said. Other issues she said she plans on addressing, listed by priority, are water, schools, roads, annexation and housing.
In addition to drawing up plans for Aberdeen, Burlew has also been planning and running her campaign, trying to build support.
"I have been going door to door, passing out flyers, and asking voters if I could place my campaign sign in their yard. I plan to poll voters this week," she said. "The e-mails have been encouraging. The citizens seem to be ready for, as one voter puts it, 'new blood.'"
Meanwhile, Burlew is taking 18 credits and is hoping to become an active member of several clubs on campus after the elections are over. For now though, her schedule remains full.
She said a normal day while campaigning, begins at 4:45 a.m. to get ready for a 7:15 a.m. TV interview. From there she goes to take photos and to grab a quick bite to eat. Two radio show interviews later, Burlew is back at Towson to take two midterms and attend class. Back at home, she spends her evening answering e-mails, printing out flyers and preparing for more campaigning.
"Luckily, I'll have an easy day tomorrow: three classes, one midterm, and one interview..." she said. "I have Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to work on my campaign."
Burlew sid she plans to stay in school if elected, willing to work around whatever the pursuit of her passion throws her way.
"...I will make every effort to keep my college career on course," she said. "If being mayor requires more of my morning time, then I will go to school at night. If it requires more of my afternoon or evening time, then I will take more classes in the morning."
She said that if she doesn't win she plans to run again for a position in the future.
For now though, Burlew continues her run to make a difference in the present.
"I could have sat at home, complained about the issues and be part of the problem or I could go out, try to make a difference and be a part of the solution," she said. "I chose to be a part of the solution."
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© 2007 The Towerlight via U-WIRE