Many government and world affairs majors dream of working in politics. UT junior Tyler Barrett is getting a head start on that dream by running for Tampa City Council District 4.
Barrett, 22, will face the District 4 Incumbent, Harry Cohen and his other opponent Kent King, who is the development manager for the Tampa Atlantic division of Southern Wine & Spirits of Florida.
“I never would have thought that this would happen, especially happening while I’m in school at UT. The students and other young voters in the district feel that they don’t have a voice at all,” Barrett said.
Barrett was very involved in politics, as his family has had a history in politics which helped shape his ambitions.
“I got involved in politics when I was very young, 12 years old,” Barrett said. “My grandparents always taught me that being politically aware is important as well as being politically active. Therefore, I volunteered on campaigns along with my grandparents when I was younger.”
Barrett served as the Hillsborough County Coordinator for Nan Rich, the former Florida Senate Minority Leader, in 2013-14.
“Nan definitely inspired me to run,” Barrett said. “But above all, she taught me that you can’t just run for office because you want to have a title. She always told me “It has to be about the issues!” She is a pioneer for LGBT rights in Florida along with women’s rights. She’s incredible. To say she inspired me is simply an understatement.”
Barrett has also been involved in on and off campus organizations such as his fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega; a member of College Democrats; and a volunteer for the Tampa Bay Aids Walk. Barrett feels that there should be a higher level of transparency in city government and that a city councilperson should be a community activist.
Barrett also plans to address health-care services, disability rights, homelessness and public transportation.
“Those are things that City Council doesn’t even talk about,” Barrett said. “As crazy as that sounds, issues that heavily impact our community are sometimes ignored. These issues are not always pleasant to discuss, and a city council-person should have a pretty comprehensive plan to make something happen but it all starts with having someone listen to the people of the community.”
Barrett plans to address disability issues by reforming local public transportation, making it more wheelchair-accessible.
Some students at UT have gotten behind the idea of a fellow student running to be a councilman.
“I think it’s fantastic. A student is as much a part of the local community as anyone else, and quite honestly there needs to be more representation from our demographic [students],” said Nicholas Finch, junior English and writing major. “If we have a voice in the city, and someone is willing to be that voice – whilst maintaining grades – then let’s get behind them.”
Other students feel no student is truly prepared for taking on a political position.
“Nobody in their early 20s or late teens has the emotional intelligence to conduct such an important position. A certain level of wisdom is needed for politics! They don’t even know who they are, nevermind decide what’s best for others,” said Matthew Colletti, senior and finance major.
Barrett filed Oct. 1 to become an official candidate, but the elections are not until March 3. His campaign, which is mostly comprised of students but contains people from the ages 18 to 68, is coordinated by Linsey Stiglic, a sophomore government and world affairs and philosophy major.
“We define victory as mobilizing voters who feel that they do not have a voice. This movement is about the community,” Barrett said.
Khadijah Khan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org