Just eight months ago, Lawrence Billy Jones III was a senior at Garland High School. He's a UNT freshman now, double-majoring in political science and criminal justice. He just turned 19. And for reasons we really can't figure, he's running for office.
Specifically, he's gunning for a seat on the Garland Independent School District board, and he either truly thinks he can reform the district's education system or can really sell it. Either way, the kid's got a future in politics.
Jones says he would be the youngest elected official in the history of Dallas County. (The DeSoto school board president is 22). "I don't know if you've seen my resume," he says over the phone, with the confident drawl of a seasoned candidate, "but I've been in politics for a while."
Jones has amassed an impressive resume over the course of his short life. He heads a junior justice advocacy group, has already served in Garland ISD as a student advocate and was named a Texas Junior Senator.
You would think it would be enough, then, to ride the wave of plaudits through college, to lure sorority girls with First Lady promises, to drown in kegs of Natty six days a week before venturing off to law school.
Not Jones. "The community cried to me, and I heard their cry," he says, every syllable oozing the righteous conviction of a youth minister (he did that too).
Jones got inspired by Barack Obama's 2008 run for office, when Obama "made it so the young people's voice actually counted." Jones has been working toward the U.S. presidency ever since. For him, politics are a calling.
"When you wake up in the morning knowing what you want to do, I think that changes the entire adventure," he says. "I wake up in the morning know what I want to do. I wake up in the morning thinking about politics."
A homegrown Garland boy, he speaks from firsthand experience when he says that on a national scale, Texas schools are behind on a lot of things, and that he knows what it'll take to improve the school district.
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"To be a top school district, I think we have to address some issues." He outlines these issues in his YouTube campaign ad. Jones says Garland students need to have fundamentals such as reading and arithmetic under their belt before they even hit grade school, and that the district is in need of math and science reform that would stop teachers from teaching to standardized tests and would allow students to keep pace with China and India. He also argues for reasonable salaries for teachers.
Hey: More money and more learning. Not a bad plan. But will he win?
"We're looking real good," he says. By we, he means his campaign team, a group of about a dozen adult volunteers headed by his octogenarian campaign manager Ed Jackson. "I'm the only person out here shaking hands, going to events." The incumbent trustee, Keith Montgomery, hasn't announced his plans for reelection.
Even if Montgomery doesn't run, and the 19-year-old wins by default, Jones insists the campaign won't stop. "I still want people to voice their opinion and tell me what they need. There has to be some kind of transparency in our government today, and I think that's what we're lacking right now."