Sudbury

'Oh you're a little young, what do you know?'—19-year-old wins council seat in small northern Ontario town

Frederic Diebel voted for the first time in this year's municipal election and got to vote for himself.

Town of just 340 people west of Sudbury has shrunk 30 per cent in the last decade

Frederic Diebel, 19, was just elected to the council of the Township of Nairn and Hyman (better known as Nairn Centre) just west of Sudbury. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Frederic Diebel voted for the first time in this year's municipal election and got to vote for himself. 

He was 18 when he filed his papers to run for council in the Township of Nairn and Hyman and had turned 19 by the time he received 113 votes in last week's election, tied for top spot in the small town's council race. 

Diebel says his age was one of the most common questions he got when knocking on doors.

"'Oh you're a little young, what do you know?' Another one was 'Wow, a young man interested in politics. That's good. Young, fresh blood on council that will be good.' And I think that kind of steamrolled into the ballot box," he says.

"The biggest thing when I was on the doors was that this town is dead. This town had no pride in it."

Shrinking population 

When Diebel was growing up in the town, which is better known as Nairn Centre, there were week-long winter carnivals, community concerts and baseball tournaments that brought everyone together.

But when he was a kid there were a lot more people in the small town along Highway 17, built around a sawmill. The latest census pegs the population at 342, down 30 per cent in the last decade.

"I think a lot of the people that are in Nairn have been in Nairn for a while and they've seen the change and think hopefully to bring that back and get Nairn's youth involved," says Diebel. 

Commuting to council meetings

Being a town councillor will be a part-time job while he continues his second year of political science studies at Carleton University in Ottawa.

"And that was a big question that I got on the doorsteps and I said it was the same as if an MP was travelling back and forth to their constituency and to Ottawa," says Diebel.

He does worry those twice monthly trips back to Nairn Centre to attend council meetings and visit with constituents will cut into his spare time and make it harder to enjoy his university days as much as his friends will. 

"I think so, a little bit," he says with a laugh.

"Why is it worth it? I think it goes back to serving people."

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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