As a recent high school graduate with an eye on building a career for himself, it would seem likely that Nathaniel Booth would be relaxing and enjoying the final lazy days of summer before beginning his freshman year at the University of Tulsa.
Instead, the 18-year-old Booth has spent the past several weeks educating himself on issues, attending candidate forums, being interviewed by members of the media, meeting with potential constituents and raising money as part of his campaign to seek the Republican nomination for mayor.
So much for his summer vacation.
Booth has been hooked on politics since attending a mayoral campaign forum during his freshman year at Tulsa's Victory Christian School.
As Booth recalled, most of the conversation in that debate centered on the planned construction of the BOK Center--a move he viewed as premature.
"Before you begin a project like that, you should get your public safety under control," he said, recalling his opinion on the matter.
Booth may have left that forum feeling like many of his concerns weren't being addressed, but he didn't let that experience turn him away from what was happening in the public arena.
"Since then, I've kept a close eye on what my government's been up to," he said.
And he still doesn't care for a lot of what he sees. Booth lists economic development, public safety and proper road and bridge construction as the issues he is most concerned about, along with creating a friendlier business environment in Tulsa.
Booth sees increasing the tax base as the only realistic answer to the budget problems that currently plague Tulsa, forcing city officials to make tough decisions about how to fund a variety of departments with pressing needs. But one area in which Booth said he won't compromise is public safety, given his perception that violent crime is increasing.
"I think we need to do a better job of working with the police department, coming up with newer initiatives and making sure they have everything they need to address that ... That's our No. 1 issue."
Booth also frets over the state of the city's roads, despite the fact the $450-million Fix Our Streets program only recently began to unfold.
"We haven't been using the appropriate materials," he said, explaining that too much reliance on asphalt instead of concrete means newly paved roads will only need to be fixed again in five years.
"We should be using the best materials and have the right oversight," he said.
Booth recognizes the fact that few people his age share his concerns, but he insists his mayoral campaign is no mere novelty act or publicity stunt. He speaks confidently and authoritatively about the issues and seems well prepared to handle questions about his youth and lack of experience.
"I think it's a shock to most people at first," he said of his candidacy, "but after they get a somewhat educated idea of what I wanted to do, they actually begin to consider it."
Booth said reactions to his campaign have been across the board, but he is pleased at the level of support and encouragement he has received from fellow Republicans. He also has an ally in John Tyler Hammons, who was elected mayor of Muskogee last year at the age of 19. Booth and Hammons were scheduled to meet last week so that Hammons could share some of his experiences.
Booth also seems unruffled by the demands of the campaign trail.
"It is what I expected," he said.
"It's a lot of work. It's an interesting summer project, I'll put it that way. But it's been great to try to be a representative for the city."
As for his message to voters, Booth has been very straightforward.
"I have told them just to look at the issues and the candidates, and pay attention to what I'm doing in this campaign," he said. "They can see for themselves if I'm making smart decisions in the campaign. They can worry about casting their vote after that."
He also hasn't been shy about getting involved in the fund-raising aspect of his campaign, framing his requests to contributors in terms of their making an investment in better government. According to his Web site, the Booth campaign has taken in more than $4,100 so far in contributions.
"It's been great to see that area of support come in," he said.
Booth's plans for the fall are a little sketchy. He's enrolled at TU this fall, but his classes don't start until Sept. 8--the day of the primary. If he wins, Booth said, he'll put off going to school and devote himself fully to the task of defeating the Democratic nominee and the independent candidates. If he loses, he'll become a full-time student again.
Either way, he'll count this summer as a valuable learning experience--one he may put to use again at some point.
"Hopefully, if I do lose, the person who wins will make the right decisions for the city," he said. "If not, this is something I might consider again."
Share this article: