By Joe Willard
Thomas Burns leans forward in a plush chair. He has a certain electricity that seems to power him. That electricity is desire, the desire to serve.
What makes Burns unique is the way he pursues that desire. Last Wednesday, Burns held a fundraiser at La Mesa in Bellevue. There were 45 to 50 people in attendance. The fundraiser was for Burns’ campaign for Bellevue City Council.
“Bellevue has a lot of potential,” Burns said. “Other cities are grabbing on to opportunity, and Bellevue needs to grab on to those opportunities.”
Most of the opportunities he is referring to are in retail. Voters, he said, don’t want to leave Bellevue to shop. Also, by growing Bellevue’s economy, there will be more jobs.
Not only is Burns running for office. He is also a student at UNO , but Burns says being a student doesn’t define him.
“I’m not running as a student. I’m just a student who’s running for public office,” Burns said.
Currently, Burns is a senior majoring in political science and economics. He also serves on the Nebraska Crime Commission and works in the Douglas County Public Defender’s office. After attaining an associate’s degree from Metro Community College, Burns applied for, and won, the Spirit of the Youth award in 2014 from the Nebraska Crime Commission.
“UNO’s really good about helping students get involved in their community,” Burns said.
Richard Fellman, adjunct professor of political science, was particularly helpful. Fellman gave Burns advice on whom to talk to and helped him learn how to build a team. Burns said the two most important questions Fellman asked him were, “Can you win, and are you okay with losing.”
“I think I can answer yes to both,” Burns said.
The Bellevue City Council has six members. Burns is running to rep-resent Ward 1. The City Council is responsible for developing policies and making decisions that affect things like public services.
While some students may not be concerned with how many fire-fighters work in their city, one thing Burns says is important for students to pay attention to in politics is financial aid.
“For example, if congress was voting on a bill to approve more financial aid, that would affect students,” Burns said. “By being unaware of what policies are being voted on, students are unable to affect a change through voting or contacting their congressional representative.”
Burns won’t know who his opponents will be in next year’s election until after the official filing on Dec. 1.
After that, he will campaign hard until the Nebraska primary on May 10, 2016. Assuming he wins the primary, his name will be on the ballot during the general election next November. Until then, he will continue knocking on doors and listening to voters.
As the presidential race, with all its multi-million dollar candidates heats up, there is one thing Burns wants to make clear. Money isn’t a necessity in running for public office.
To support Burns or learn more about his campaign, write Friends of Thomas Burns at 2401 Van Buren Street, Bellevue, NE 68005.
When asked what he would tell students interested in running for public office, Burns said, “I’m available anytime you need something.”