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Young candidate is ready to serve on city council

The way I see it, there are two reasons why there are few young people in political office. The first is that few recognize that our responsibility to our community, our responsibility for serving, begins now and not at some nebulous point in the future. The second is that for even the most interested young person, it is difficult to run for office.

I have been asked frequently why I'm running now. Why don't I wait a few years and serve on some committees, taking the typical path. My answer is very simple: Timing. Why haven't we had many city councilors in their twenties? Thirties? Because we don't have time for a campaign. We are beginning our careers and our own families. That takes dedication, a serious commitment to wanting yourself and your family to succeed. Where is the time for a campaign? Most people wait until retirement or until they are established enough in their careers to be able to dedicate three months of the year to a campaign. If I were to wait just two years, I would be 24 years old and two years into a new career. I would like you all to picture the hypothetical conversation I would have with my boss when August 2008 rolls around and I inform him or her that I need to work part-time instead of full-time for three months while I campaign. Don't think it's going to go so well for me? Neither do I.

It's the campaigning that stands in our way, not the time needed to serve on the council. I'm running now because I am ready now, and because I can now. With the support of my family, I have been able to put my life on hold until Nov. 7. And while I agree that I certainly could use more experience (who wouldn't benefit from more experience?) and that I am unusually young, I believe strongly in my own capabilities at this juncture in my life.

But let's be clear: The Lake Oswego City Council certainly does not lack age and experience. That is meant with all due respect. Our city councilors are people who have been very involved in this community for years, serving in many different capacities. I have a different kind of experience. My experience is not as extensive, but it does have a good 22 years in length, including two years spent on the Youth City Council. My experience is not the typical path to elected office, but it is a path I have taken with commitment and passion, with a dedication to learning as much as I could with the intent of preparing myself to be a trusted and respected candidate for this office. And I have taken that path as a member of this community, as a product of this community's efforts.

The city council is a team. It works as a team to discuss, to build consensus and to solve problems. If elected, I will be a part of that team. I hope to make that team stronger by giving it more diversity. What I bring to the table is a new perspective. It is a perspective that I believe will be an asset to the council and this community. I'm young, and I am innovative. I listen and take advice. I am strong and confident. I'm approachable to both seniors in high school and senior citizens. I motivate people to get involved in city government because I show that involvement in city issues can and should be for everyone.

While I understand that it is scary to vote for the unusually young candidate, please know this: I am ready. And, as we address the issues facing this city, including declining enrollment rates in our schools because of a decrease in young families, ask yourself what you want your city council to look like.

Kristin Johnson is a resident of Lake Oswego who is running for one of three open positions on the Lake Oswego City Council.