WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — A teenager is taking on the role of a city council member in West Lafayette.
19-year-old Shannon Kang is officially the youngest leader to ever serve the city. Shannon said her decision to run for city council began with one question.
“Is there an age requirement for this job?” said Kang.
Kang started campaigning in November 2018. In December 2019, she became a city council member for District 3, which is also known as the student district.
“I'm going to be looking over resolutions and ordinances,” said Kang. “I really want to focus on things like sustainability and things that the students might be impacted by.”
This role is fitting for Kang as she is a sophomore studying political science at Purdue University but her passion for the world of politics doesn't start here.
“I did it a lot in high school I was really involved in student government so I ran for office on a very small scale,” said Kang.
Comparing her experience to now, where she's overseeing a district with more than 40,000 residents, she said it'll come with its challenges.
“Trying to do it in a city and trying to prove yourself in a state that you don't really call home yet and also just on campus that you're brand new to,” said Kang.
But she's not scared for what's to come.
“I ran on the fact that I just wanted to be more involved but being able to get a head start at 19 is so great and I feel like it inspires me to keep going but it also inspires other people that it's possible, it's achievable,” said Kang.
As a triple minority being a young, Asian-American, woman she hopes this inspires others.
“A lot of people were very impressed, not thinking that I couldn't do it but just the fact that I did, so I think it inspires other minorities to step up,” said Kang.
Mayor John Dennis said District 3 was created after the city of West Lafayette annexed Purdue. He said having a student oversee this district is imperative.
“It’s imperative now when you look at what’s going on not just locally but what’s going on at a national level that government represents all of its citizens,” said Dennis. “I feel very strongly that having representation from somebody who’s as passionate, and as intelligent and as enthusiastic as Shannon that is truly going to help us continue to provide the best services for all of our citizens.”
Kang isn’t the first student to take on this four-year position but Dennis has faith that she will be one of the bests they’ve had.
“She’s very curious, and I think curiosity is something that really allows for somebody to be a provider of good governance, she’s not afraid to ask questions and she’s really really smart,” said Dennis. “She will interact with folks, she’s very outgoing and she’ll work to try to find out things that can better serve the student population as well as the city.”
Dennis said will not only be a learning experience for Kang but for him and other city leaders as well.
“She will also provide a lot of guidance to me, I’m 61-years-old now so my student days are so far behind me I can’t even see them in a magnified rear-view mirror,” said Dennis. “It’s important for me to be able to lead the city and for our council to be able to make the legislative decisions that we need to make sure that we have the proper guidance an input and Shannon is going to be pivotal in that regard.”
Kang said she wants to continue working in the field of political science after graduation.