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#CDALeads: From College Dems to Town Council

Jonathan Dame Posted March 6, 2013 at 9:16 PM
by , Deputy Communications Director, College Democrats of America

When Lee Storrow won election to the town council of Chapel Hill, N.C., he was 22 years old. After growing up three hours away, in Asheville, N.C., Lee came to Chapel Hill to attend the University of North Carolina, where he found his niche in the College Democrats.

“When I got to UNC I was looking to involve myself in some type of progressive organization, and I worked with a couple different organizations at UNC,” Lee said. “But I really found my home with the College Democrats.”

By his senior year, Lee was the president of the UNC Chapel Hill College Democrats and the political director of the College Democrats of North Carolina. The skills and connections Lee gained through these groups proved valuable when he first ran for office in 2011, shortly after graduation.

“Through my work with the College Democrats, and the Democratic party in Orange County, I got to know what issues were on folks minds in the community,” Lee explained. “We did a lot of volunteer service with a couple of different neighborhood groups, and those connections were really important to me when I ran. Those folks supported me because they saw me do good work when I was in College Democrats.”

As a young person running for office, Lee knew he had to work hard to prove his legitimacy. Once Chapel Hill residents recognized his commitment to the community, however, they were happy to endorse a recent college graduate. Since taking office in December 2011, Lee has felt supported and respected by his colleagues.

“We have eight council members and one mayor, and each of us have one vote,” Lee said. “I don’t have half a vote because I am half the age of most of the council members, and it doesn’t matter, at the end of the day, if it’s the five oldest council members or the five youngest council members who agree, it takes five votes to get things done.”

Over the past year, Lee has spearheaded efforts to extend the hours at the community pool and create a lasting dialogue around student housing issues, among other things. He recognizes that these issues are not the most exciting but takes pride in working hard for his constituents.

“They are not the most flashy topics, but I am really proud of being able, during my first year, to feel like there were some things I achieved that might not have happened if I hadn’t spearheaded the effort,” Lee said.

Lee said hard work, a diverse portfolio, and a true commitment to his community guided him to success, reassuring aspiring young politicos that if they commit themselves to their work, opportunities for leadership will follow.

“Get involved, when you are in college, with as many different projects and groups and organization as you can, and use those opportunities to find your passions,” Lee said. “And if you do good work, opportunities will come along in the future for you in leadership roles and running for office. But the first prerequisite is to have a firm grounding and history of service back to the community.”

Lee, whose term ends in 2015, is unsure about his next steps. For now, he is focused on serving his constituents well, but knows his College Democrats experience will help him wherever he goes.

Lee’s contact information and official town council bio can be found on the Chapel Hill website.

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