High School Student Runs for Coralville Mayor

By Gregg Hennigan & Mark Carlson, Reporters

CORALVILLE, Iowa — Logan Strabala wants to succeed someone six decades his senior as the top elected official in Coralville.

The 18-year-old filed papers this week to run for mayor, meaning he'll be on the ballot in the Nov. 5 election. The current mayor, 81-year-old Jim Fausett, is not seeking re-election.

Strabala is a senior at West High School who turned 18 on Monday, lives with his parents and works at the Coralville Hy-Vee. To say he's an atypical candidate is an understatement.

But he's serious about his candidacy and in an interview Wednesday immediately took shots at current city leaders over the town's debt and at the other two declared mayoral candidates, current City Council member John Lundell and local attorney Matt Adam.

"I just wanted to do something about it (the city's financial situation) because I don't think anything is going to change if you vote the first two candidates in," he said.

Coralville's debt was the third-highest among Iowa towns in 2012 at nearly $279 million. Strabala also said he'd strive for a more transparent government.

A teenager running for municipal office is rare but has occurred in Iowa, said Alan Kemp, executive director of the Iowa League of Cities. In 2005, 18-year-old Sam Juhl, a high school student, was elected mayor of the small town of Roland in central Iowa.

Strabala's candidacy may be unprecedented in recent Johnson County history. A college student occasionally runs for city council, typically in Iowa City, but no one in the county Auditor's Office could remember a candidate younger than 20, said Kingsley Botchway II, the deputy auditor of elections.

He said his office is trying to get more young people to vote – Botchway himself is a 27-year-old candidate for Iowa City Council – and he said a high school student running could help with that.

"It'd be good if he could change turnout ... even if it's half a percentage point," he said.

West High Principal Jerry Arganbright said he had to be careful commenting on a political matter, but he described Strabala as a nice kid.

"He's always been a hard-working student here in our school," he said.

Strabala believes voters should consider his age a positive, saying the direction the city is heading in shows "right now what we're doing doesn't work age-wise."

He said because he has less experience than other candidates, he'd be more open to suggestions and would base decisions on what residents want.

Strabala may be considered a long shot to win, but his mom, Linda, said that's his goal. She initially thought her son was joking when he said he was running for mayor, but he has her full support.

Her vote, however, is not an automatic.

"I have to listen to all the candidates before I decide," she said, adding that her son is a sensible and hard-working person whom she thinks would make a good mayor.

Strabala said after school he's interested in becoming a commercial diver who makes repairs to things under water. That would require training outside the Midwest, but if elected, Strabala said he'd stay in Coralville.

The mayor serves a two-year term. The filing period for Coralville candidates ends Sept. 19.
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