By Kristin Zagurski
Yet another UNO student is attempting to make his way into local politics.
Rich Portera, 19, a sophomore secondary education major, has filed to run for mayor of Papillion.
He is one of six candidates vying for the position. Others in the running include incumbent Donnie Brandt, as well as Papillion residents Gary Morris, Mike Riddle, Pete Goodman and James Blinn.
The primary, which will narrow down the field, will be held May 14. The top candidates will advance to the Nov. 5 general election. Whomever is elected will serve a four-year term.
Portera said he decided to run because of his concern for the current system. He said he’d also like to see more people his age involved in the city.
“I’d like to see the present and future city develop as I develop,” he said. “What happens now is going to affect my future.”
Portera, who was not old enough to vote in the last mayoral election, said Papillion has a weak government.
“The mayor is just a figurehead,” he said.
If elected, Portera would like to see the office of mayor become a full-time position or would implement a full-time city manager.
He sees his age is a neutral issue in his campaign.
He said he knows some will see him as a child with no experience. He maintains this isn’t the case, however. Portera has followed the Papillion political scene closely, as his father is a former member of the city council.
“I’ve seen enough things,” he said, adding that he knows how things can go “around here.”
He does, however, plan to use his age as an advantage in winning the votes of the 18 to 24 age group.
“If I get 18 to 24, I can win the election,” he said.
He describes his theory about this as an “upside-down funnel.”
He said if he can get those in his own age group involved in politics, they can talk to their parents. Their parents would then talk to other older adults in the community and the funnel would take shape.
Portera has no long-term political goals, but rather is running to get involved and to try and get things changed.
“I want to get things going in the right direction,” he said.
Portera believes the reason there are so many people running against Brandt is that they share his feelings that the city is headed down the wrong path.
He is not worried about losing out to the incumbent, whom he thinks does not have a strong backing among Papillion residents.
Last month, another UNO student filed to run for public office. Brad Allen, 22, a senior business economics major, filed against incumbent Nancy Thompson for the District 14 seat in the Nebraska State Legislature.
The primary for that race will also be held May 14.