Justin M. Nickels, Mayor-Elect
April 9, 2009 6:35 AM   Subscribe

Meet Justin Nickels, the 22-year-old grocery store cashier and college student who was just elected Mayor of Manitowoc, WI by a margin of 15 votes.
posted by hermitosis (37 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I bet his opponent Alderman Dave Soeldner is kicking himself, Facebook changes everything.
posted by pwally at 6:42 AM on April 9, 2009


It's a good pay increase for a store clerk:
Nickels is to receive $68,830 in his first year in office, $70,207 in his second, $71,611 in his third and $73,043 in his fourth, according to city ordinance.
He can probably give up his paper route, too.
posted by pracowity at 6:49 AM on April 9, 2009


Nickels is to receive $68,830 in his first year in office....

Are those average figures? What are they based on? Now I'm curious as to figures in respectable cities. Does it have to do with population? The amount of ish you have to deal with?
posted by thebellafonte at 6:56 AM on April 9, 2009


Does this mean I should tell my children to forgo MIT and concentrate instead on the cereal aisle? Seriously, these articles hint at but don't really reveal the most interesting aspect of this race - why did the kid win over the civil engineer alderman with the master's from MIT? Did this small town hate smart people with edumacations? Was the kid a Bible-bashing pro-lifer who ran on a culturally conservative platform a la Palin? Did too few people show up to vote, save the high school and college kids and the kid's family? Because electing a 22-year old mayor over someone with much more experience and education is certainly weird, and the only explanation this article gives is that the kid won because of "hard work." There's gotta be more to the story.
posted by billysumday at 7:02 AM on April 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


With such an honest surname like Nickels, how could he lose?
posted by solipsophistocracy at 7:04 AM on April 9, 2009


Are those average figures? What are they based on? Now I'm curious as to figures in respectable cities. Does it have to do with population? The amount of ish you have to deal with?

It's entirely dependent on the place. I know here in Calgary, a city of a million, Aldermen get paid $125K/year. Not sure how much the mayor gets, but his salary isn't his biggest source of income. Of course, in a bigger city there is much more to do. In a lot of really small places they're volunteers, while in others they may get a small stipend.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:05 AM on April 9, 2009


I'm betting that the voters are hoping his inexperience makes him less effective at being corrupt. According to Gladwell it takes 10 years of practice to get to be a true expert at fleecing the public.
posted by srboisvert at 7:08 AM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Was the kid a Bible-bashing pro-lifer who ran on a culturally conservative platform a la Palin?

Judging by his campaign website, his platform appears to have been jobs, the economy, open government, and fixing potholes. Generally, Bible-thumpers, pro-lifers, and "save the traditional family" types who are running for office loudly advertise their positions on their campaign websites and don't sweep them under the rug. FWIW, his Facebook page says he's a Lutheran.
posted by blucevalo at 7:13 AM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


According to the article, Nickels "won with 4,711 votes to Soeldner's 4,696," for a combined 9,407 votes. Manitowoc had 34,053 people as of the 2000 census, with 75.9% over 18 (voting age), or 25,846 eligible voters.

Population increases are a given, and it wouldn't be hard to imagine only 1/3 of those eligible to vote actually did. With such a low turnout, a Facebook campaign would be huge. Not to mention that Manitowoc is home to 3 colleges, one of which is LTC-Manitowoc, a satellite campus of Lakeshore Technical College (over 4000 students).

I hope he legitimately does well, but even if he completely fails, stories like this are good. It's really disheartening to realize that politicians pretty much feel safe in ignoring voters and constituents if they're under 30.
posted by explosion at 7:13 AM on April 9, 2009


why did the kid win over the civil engineer alderman with the master's from MIT? Did this small town hate smart people with edumacations? Was the kid a Bible-bashing pro-lifer who ran on a culturally conservative platform a la Palin?

Here's a summary of the main issues they have listed on their websites:

Nickels' Platform

Get the city classified as a Foreign Trade Zone.

Budget cuts.

Transparency.

Soeldner's Platform

Creation of a stormwater utility (which would probably help out some of his friends, considering he's a civil engineer whose expertise is in stormwater management).

Learning from the Police Investigation (I assume this is common knowledge in Manitowoc, but I have absolutely no idea what he's talking about).

Snow Plowing.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:22 AM on April 9, 2009


Sometimes I think of running for a local office. Not because I think the job would be fun or easy. But because the people that usually run for office are so damn incompetent at running a campaign, I could waltz in.

Compare this kid's Web site to his opponent's.

The kid has a nifty branded logo, Facebook links and downloadable mp3s so you can actually hear his voice.

The MIT grad's site has an awesomely bad photo of the candidate, and they couldn't even figure out how to get the jaggies out of the JPEG logo. Wonder what his posters and yard signs looked like.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:25 AM on April 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


OK LISTEN UP KIDS

That's how you win elections. Anyone wanting to win an election that is how you win it.

1) identify likely voters
2) identify your support
3) make sure your 2's get out to vote
4) make sure likely voters esp. swing ones vote for you
5) Profit

VOTER ID, VOTER ID, VOTER ID. Not all the fancy fucking websites and leaflets in the goddamn world make a hill of beans compared to knocking on doors in the pouring rain.

(off to knock on doors in the *checks weather* grey misty crap in 2 hours)
posted by By The Grace of God at 7:37 AM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Because electing a 22-year old mayor over someone with much more experience and education is certainly weird, and the only explanation this article gives is that the kid won because of "hard work."

The kid is also a twice-elected alderman and is getting a degree in public policy (not, to be sure, from MIT). It's not as though he just decided to run down to the city clerk's office on his lunch break and file on a lark. His opponent appears to be running primarily on his experience working with, and support for, developers, who may or may not be thought of fondly in Manitowoc.
posted by enn at 7:37 AM on April 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


these articles hint at but don't really reveal the most interesting aspect of this race - why did the kid win over the civil engineer alderman with the master's from MIT? Did this small town hate smart people with edumacations?

God knows he's got to be stupid if he's a grocery store cashier and those small town hicks can't possibly know what's good for them.

Gee, maybe he was more likeable than the other guy. Maybe the voters thought he could relate better to the common man. Maybe they knew him from the grocery store. Maybe they didn't want to elect another career politician.
posted by Jess the Mess at 7:38 AM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


This isn't a case of the grocery clerk who got his friends on facebook to vote for him. Nickels was elected to council as an alderman in 2005 and re-elected in 2007. It's not that uncommon to make the jump to mayor from there.
posted by rocket88 at 7:40 AM on April 9, 2009


Community Spirit! Shopping! Food! Jefferton Manitowoc Alive!
posted by joecacti at 7:41 AM on April 9, 2009


Misfire! Tom Goes to the Mayor clips.
posted by joecacti at 7:42 AM on April 9, 2009


Oh, and facebook: let's take a look at what the boy was doing on facebook...

*click click click*

Go to his updates section. Ah yes, talking about LIT DROPS AND REGISTERING PEOPLE TO VOTE.

:)

moral: facebook is for getting volunteers. Gots to be taken out of the digital, kids.
posted by By The Grace of God at 7:44 AM on April 9, 2009


Being from very near the area, I feel especially qualified to state that, yeah, Manitowoc is a little weird. There's a very insulated feeling to a lot of the municipalities here. No one I know or have spoken with cares about a Manitowoc mayoral race. Everyone is more concerned with whether or not Oshkosh Truck and Pierce are going to lay people off again.

The best single word description I have for this little berg is quirky. I don't have any actual stats, but I've heard several people express that Manitowoc feels like a town where the median age is about 62. There's also this strange sort of hippyesque vibe to some of the newer businesses.

My sincere guess as to why this kid won, the old people, meaning the majority, didn't bother to vote.

One of the most interesting side effects of this economy is that people who have no reason to worry about whether they are working or not don't have a strong incentive to vote.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 7:45 AM on April 9, 2009


My sincere guess as to why this kid won, the old people, meaning the majority, didn't bother to vote.

Well it also looks like he was active in the Rotary club, his church, and Habitat for Humanity. Old people love and respect those activities, so he probably won a fair number over.
posted by Science! at 7:50 AM on April 9, 2009


Lets hope he carries through with the open government/transparency thing. He might even be receptive to open source running the place VS microsoft.

It would be a nice change of pace.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:53 AM on April 9, 2009


I'm from Wisconsin. Cultural conservative bible thumpers just don't play well here. I thinks its because of the drinking culture. In many towns, taverns outnumber churches.
posted by fridayinjune at 7:55 AM on April 9, 2009


Now I'm curious as to figures in respectable cities. Does it have to do with population? The amount of ish you have to deal with?

Echoing what jimmythefish said. As well as noting that a lot of smaller cities do pay their mayors but often not much, in many of those places being mayor is considered a part-time gig, like where I live.
posted by IvoShandor at 7:56 AM on April 9, 2009


This kid is awesome.
posted by lunit at 8:01 AM on April 9, 2009


I'm from Wisconsin too, and off the top of my head, I can't think of a town that doesn't have more taverns than churches. Also, folks are mostly Lutheran or some other Northern form of Protestantism, not movements generally noted for crazy fundamentalism.
posted by echo target at 8:08 AM on April 9, 2009


Oddly enough, in 1987, Holland, MI elected a 23-year-old as mayor by a 16-vote margin. The only reason I know about this is because he was a frat brother of an old friend of mine. He had been a member of the city council previously, as a college student, and got elected the same year he graduated.
posted by adamrice at 8:09 AM on April 9, 2009


I don't have any actual stats, but I've heard several people express that Manitowoc feels like a town where the median age is about 62. There's also this strange sort of hippyesque vibe to some of the newer businesses.

I don't find these two points in conflict. Odd though it may seem to think, people who are 62 now were twenty during the Summer of Love.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:20 AM on April 9, 2009


I just found out this week that at my college, there's a freshman (!!) running for mayor of the city it's in (population approx 6,900).

He's running uncontested. Yaaaaaay, democracy at work in backwater PA!
posted by specialagentwebb at 8:24 AM on April 9, 2009


Maybe he was the better candidate. The nice thing about democracy is that you don't have to have a better resume or more experience than your opponent to win. It doesn't often play out that the best candidate wins as a result, but I'd like to think that every so often, this is what happens.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:19 AM on April 9, 2009


"[He] was a Teen-Age Mayor": "Toughly impartial, he recently fined his 17-year-old brother, Len, $24 for illegal possession of beer. He has spearheaded several long-needed reforms, such as jacking up the town speed limit from 10 m.p.h. to 25 m.p.h. and scrapping the ordinance regulating bowling alleys (there is not now, nor has there ever been, a bowling alley in Ayrshire). He has even offered to perform a marriage—although he himself could not be married without his father's consent. Mayor Smith is 19 years old."

More recently and, on the other end of the spectrum: "Dead Man Re-Elected Mayor." Not sure if this is a complement or not: "I figured he'd win because he seemed to get even more popular after he died, just like Carnahan," said the County Clerk.
posted by webhund at 9:25 AM on April 9, 2009


I wish I could remember more specific details, but several years ago some college student ran for Zoning Board chairman in the college's town as a joke and won the election. Then he discovered he couldn't get out of it and had to, y'know, actually go to meetings and pay attention 'n' shit. He tried to resign or give up the job to someone else, but the town sued to make him stay on (and won).

I'm glad to hear Justin Nickels is for real and not just another "lookitme I'm so funny" college guy.
posted by briank at 9:27 AM on April 9, 2009


Just as long as he doesn't commandeer the USS Cobia to begin a round of piracy on the Great Lakes, I'm OK with the election results.
posted by drezdn at 9:44 AM on April 9, 2009


SinisterPurpose: Why, exactly, shouldn't the town be more concerned if a local employer lays people off than who's mayor? Especially if the mayor hasn't fixed things any time soon? Looking between the two websites is revealing. Soeldner is focused on building some new utilities. Nickels is focused on trade and downtown revitalization as engines of growth. Who would you vote for, particularly if you're scared about the imminent economic collapse of your town?

You know, I hear these young politicians are doing pretty well all over...
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:39 AM on April 9, 2009


"Odd though it may seem to think, people who are 62 now were twenty during the Summer of Love."

Seriously, shut up. This is one of those things we are all better off not thinking about.

My dad is 62.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 2:03 PM on April 9, 2009


$70K/year for such a small town...

We only pay our city manager ~$160K, and our town is 5 times the size.
I think our city manager is getting the shaft.
posted by madajb at 3:07 PM on April 9, 2009




Soeldner went away for college and didn't move back to the area until 2006, which means that Nickels has been an alderman for longer than Soeldner has lived in the town as an adult. So maybe people thought that, despite his young age, Nickels had more relevant experience than Soeldner did.

I don't know what irritates me more: that people assume that a young politician's election must be about Facebook, that people assume that anything odd that happens in the Midwest can be attributed to crazy Palin-esque Bible thumpers, or that people assume that anyone who went to MIT must be superior to anyone who attends UW-Manitowoc.
posted by craichead at 4:35 PM on April 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


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