Lawrence City Commission elections are nearly eight months away, but Jeni Chaffee started making her plans to capture an at-large seat last winter.
"I thought I'd better start early because I didn't really know anybody," she said as she prepared for a political information and voter registration party she threw Saturday night at a friend's house in North Lawrence.
The party, which had drawn about 50 people by 10:30 p.m., was one way of getting her name known.
Chaffee, 26, is majoring in political science at Kansas University. She plans to graduate with a bachelor's degree next May.
"I really don't think we're fairly represented on the commission," she said of her decision to run. "Most of the commission is made up of older white males, and I don't think that is a very good representation of this city."
Chaffee believes the city wastes money. Specifically, she opposes giving American Eagle Outfitters Inc. an 80 percent, 10-year tax abatement for its planned distribution center in the East Hills Business Park. She also opposes building a downtown parking garage, saying that won't solve parking problems.
At her party, petitions against the American Eagle tax abatement were available for signing, along with other petitions seeking bike racks in the downtown area.
A few close friends are helping Chaffee with her campaign. One of the reasons she decided to get involved in an election is to spur interest among her peers, she said. She believes voter apathy is a problem for all ages, however.
"I guess that's one of the reasons I went into this," she said. "I want to change that."
Chaffee was born in Dodge City. Her father works for the Federal Aviation Administration, and her family lived in several towns while she was growing up.
"I come from a government family and we moved around a lot," she said. "I've lived in Lawrence six years, and that's longer than I've lived any place."
Someday Chaffee wants to run for Congress, she said.
Chaffee didn't plan to make political speeches at her party. The main purpose, she said, was to allow local public service agencies a chance to distribute information and register voters. About 10 people were registered to vote at the party.