Jason Russell still lives at his parents’ place in Greenmount and works two part-time jobs like many university students.
It is just that one of those jobs is as the youngest councillor at the Shire of Mundaring, representing the west ward at the foot of the Perth Hills.
The 21-year-old was elected two years ago after a campaign run on a shoestring budget.
A “big nerd” in school, Mr Russell was part of Perth Modern School debating team and had long held an interest in politics.
His political engagement got him a stint on a youth advisory committee where he impressed several sitting councillors who suggested he should run.
“The beauty of local government is dealing with people’s everyday problems,” Mr Russell said.
“Weed control, graffiti clean-up, potholes, just that kind of stuff, it seems trivial but if you’ve ever had a problem like that or a tree overhanging your house, you know how important is that time.”
Mr Russell said he had not encountered much age discrimination as most people just wanted to see you had your “head screwed on” and had some fight.
“Mainly what you try to do is put yourself in front of people and let them know you’re genuine,” he said.
The first-time councillor hasn’t shied away from controversy having upended a tender process to award a contract for youth services which was in its final stages.
“The shire had been doing the same thing for 20 years at that point of hire an external contractor to deliver youth services,” he said.
“In the last few years the number of kids using that service absolutely dropped off but we were still spending the same money … it just wasn’t working anymore.”
The tender process was scrapped by a narrow vote and the council went back to the drawing board to find a community driven solution to youth services.
It was a big win but the process isn’t over.
Mr Russell said he wants to see it through and hopes to see an improvement in skate park infrastructure and environmental-minded issues.
At the same time he will continue to juggle his studies at Murdoch University and a job at the Federal Law Courts.
Come 2021 he should have his degree and will need to consider his position if he wants to run for local government again since he will also be looking for a full-time job, hopefully one which lead him down a path where he can facilitate more change in policy development.
“I’m really interested in looking at other countries approaches and how they tackle their issues,” he said.
“Denmark and Bhutan are looking at measuring happiness as an outcome of government performance.
“Happiness is so important, we have more and more work commitments, social media, we kind of forget about looking after ourselves and being happy.”
The West Australian has partnered with Northern Star Resources to reveal 50 of the State’s most talented young people over the course of a month. Why? Because we believe the future is bright and these rising stars can move mountains if given the right support.