Woodburn teen enters City Council race
How many 18-year-old high school graduates run for political office before even starting college? In Woodburn, at least one.
Woodburn High School graduate Juan Arriaga announced Friday, June 22 that he will be running for Woodburn City Council Ward 5 seat, which will be left vacant in November by current councilor Frank Lonergan who is himself running for mayor.
"It really all started this year," Arriaga said.
Arriaga said he had little interest in the workings of political systems until taking government and economics with Woodburn teacher Brian Gingerich this year. His interest was sparked immediately, and Gingerich encouraged him to get further involved.
"(Gingerich) really motivated me, he said, 'Juan, I really want you to run for council,'" Arriaga said.
The grad has only been interested in politics for a year and he is already experienced in organizing and political work. Arriaga has interned with State Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon in Salem and organized the student gun control walkout on March 14 at Woodburn High School.
"It's campaigns like (Alonso Leon's) that I want to be in, that are pro-immigration and pro-women's rights," Arriaga said.
His vision for Woodburn is a town that continues pushing for inclusion and celebration of diverse cultures.
"In Woodburn we embrace Hispanic cultures, Asian cultures — I want to see more of those diverse cultures, whether through food, music, anything," Arriaga said.
Arriaga has a deep connection to music. You might recognize him from Woodburn High's concert and jazz bands where he played percussion, or mariachi band, where he played guitarron. Arriaga has been a musician since joining choir in fourth grade, and he was first introduced to instruments in band in middle school.
"I fell in love with music and how each musician and instrument plays a part to create music," he said.
Arriaga plans to continue playing with concert band, jazz band and orchestra in college. He will be attending Corban University this year, studying political science. Arriaga has serious ambition: He said he wants to move into state and then national politics after working in politics at the local level.
"This campaign will be really eye-opening to me, it will show me my strengths and weaknesses," he said. "Even though it's only a city council campaign, it's a step in my career."
Arriaga is collecting signatures in Ward 5, where he is not quite representative of the population's majority demographic. Ward 5 is on the southern boundary of the city and includes parts of the Woodburn Estates and Golf community.
"The majority of Ward 5 citizens are over 60, they might look at me and say, 'Aren't you a little young to be running for city council?'" Arriaga said.
Arraiga knows that his campaign is unprecedented, and that he will face significant skepticism for his young age. Still, he says, he has the determination to win votes and the maturity to follow through if he is elected.
"I may get tired, but I finish what I start, and though I may face challenges on the way, I have support of family and friends," Arriaga said. "What makes me different is my heart for politics, and whatever I do, I commit 100 percent."