When government sophomore Victor To wanted to be an author, he wrote a novel. When he wanted to be a computer coder, he built his own social network. Now, he has decided to go into politics — and he’s running for city council.
To is running for Place 2 on the Pflugerville City Council in a special election that will be held in August. To decided to run in May after he heard that the current councilman, Brad Marshall, was vacating his spot to run for mayor. At 19 years old, To is the youngest candidate ever to run for the Pflugerville City Council.
“It’s important for young people to get involved,” To said. “People [have told] us since we were young, ‘You are going to be the leaders of tomorrow.’ I say to them, ‘Start acting like it.’”
To said he wants to advocate for responsible building and provide opportunities for residents to remain involved in their community as it expands. If he wins, he said he will also develop opportunities for youth leadership and internships through programs like a mock city council or mock legislature. As a Pflugerville native, he understands that students interested in government do not have many opportunities to practice leadership.
“[Pflugerville] is starting to turn into this big city,” To said. “I’m a citizen here, [and] I have the right to drive the history of our country forward.”
After being inspired by the material he learned in his high school U.S. history class, To said he decided to pursue a career in politics during his junior year. During his senior year, his government teacher, Kyleen Dobbs, solidified his dream by encouraging him to run for the council position.
“[I] could tell from the moment I met him that he was going to be a star,” Dobbs said. “It was a very intense course, and I believe in rigor. Victor met me every step of the way [and] was enthusiastic from the get go.”
Dobbs advised To to get involved with his community as much as possible by attending city council meetings and local events. She said she thinks his candidacy will inspire other millennials to become more active in their governments.
“What 19-year-old gets to meet city council members and really talk about things that matter?” Dobbs said. “He gives me hope that there are kiddos out there that are going to lead. Whatever he does, I’m proud to have been his teacher.”
Jim McDonald, who is also running for Place 2 on the city council, said he hopes Pflugerville citizens vote for the candidate they choose based on the whole person. As an IT professional, he said he doesn’t see himself as a politician, and instead bases his campaign on his involvement in the community, particularly through the Home Owners Association, the Rotary Club and as a martial arts instructor.
“We’ve got a veteran running, a land developer running, a college student and an IT guy,” McDonald said. “I think the citizens should look at the experience that all of these candidates bring and make a decision based on that.”
To said his strengths lie in his candidness and compassion. Because he has not been involved in politics before, he said he doesn’t have ties to interest groups and can better serve the citizens’ needs.
This summer, he also began an internship with the Hill Country Campaign Academy, which teaches students campaign and political strategies. But so far, To said his campaign has been purely grassroots, with friends and volunteers helping out. His favorite part about the campaign has been meeting the citizens of Pflugerville.
“It’s a reminder of why I’m doing this,” To said. “People have issues, and it’s my job to be able to make their life better.”