CRESTVIEW — Alby Clendennin is an 18-year-old Baker High School senior with a list of achievements.

Senior class president. Beta Club president. Academic team. Production manager of the school TV station. Track team.

 

And, quite possibly, Okaloosa County School Board Member for District 3.

Clendennin has been a student in Okaloosa County since he was five. Now with graduation in sight, he wants to make a difference in the school district and start his political career.

"I want to give the board a completely different perspective," he said. "High school has changed since a lot of elected officials have been there."

The Crestview resident said he filed his paperwork to enter the school board election in February shortly after his 18th birthday. So far he's collected about 100 signatures of the 1,356 needed to get on the ballot for the August 28 election. He'll be running against Joe Slusser and Linda Evanchyk.

Clendennin received support from his parents and confused looks from his friends when he announced his campaign run.

"My friends were like, 'Can you do that? Don't you have to be 35?'" Clendennin said.

The school board candidate hopeful has watched "tons" of school board meetings online. He's also enrolled in XQ Super School, which is an online initiative to reshape public high schools.

He doesn't think it's weird to be an 18-year-old school board member, but he does see the unique nature of it.

"If I win, I would be my principal's boss," he said with a laugh.

Clendennin, who is also dual-enrolled at Northwest Florida State College, said he's not nervous about balancing his last semester of high school and a political career. But he admits he hasn't had a lot of extra time to campaign. Soon, he'll start going door-to-door with his friends to collect signatures and share his ideas.

So far, he's created his Facebook page, Clendennin for School Board, and designed his logo. His motto, "Alby There For You," comes from his love of puns.

While his friends are enjoying their summer vacations, he'll be campaigning.

"This is a straight-up grassroots campaign," he said. "I just put $20 in my campaign account."

As a school board member, Clendennin said he would support the half-cent sales tax. He'll be a proponent for new equipment and renovations, especially for schools in the north end of the county.

"At Baker High School, we get a lot of hand-me-downs," he said. "I really want to make Okaloosa County better. We're more than test scores."

More importantly, Clendennin said he wants to change the climate of the school board. When asked about the current Okaloosa School District scandal in which the district is accused of failing to report child abuse of a non-verbal autistic student, Clendennin said he believed it was a symptom of people being "afraid to take action."

"I'm not one of the good ol' boys," he said.

In the fall, he'll start college at the University of West Florida where he plans to major in politic science. They'll likely be more campaigns in his future. But right now he's focused on one.

"I hope to accomplish a lot of things and be that person who has the students' backs," he said.