From "Seven who will matter in 2007" (News & Observer, 1/1/2007):
Tom Jensen has worked on two dozen political campaigns. He writes weekly columns for a local newspaper. He helps edit a local political blog. He's on Chapel Hill's planning board.
And he is 23.
Jensen's latest project is to persuade North Carolina cities to sign a commitment to reduce greenhouse gases.
The effort, based on a climate protection agreement by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, amounts to sort of a local government version of the international Kyoto Protocol, Jensen said.
Five cities have already signed up. The N.C. Sierra Club's goal is 12 by the end of 2007, although Jensen confided that he is hoping far more will commit. Jensen said he isn't interested in only the biggest cities.
"There's no reason small cities shouldn't be environmental leaders, too," said Jensen, who rides the bus from Chapel Hill to Raleigh for work each day.
The 2006 UNC-Chapel Hill graduate began his foray into politics in high school by working on a school bond campaign for his school district in Ann Arbor, Mich. He said he wanted to get away from the drama of student government politics.
"I thought, 'I could be here quibbling about dances, or I could get out in the community and really make a difference,' " he said.
As a UNC student, he campaigned for city council candidates and managed a race for a candidate for county commissioner. He also ran for student body president and lost, and he now serves as president of the N.C. Federation of College Democrats, comparing himself to former presidential candidate Howard Dean.
"I think I ran too angry of a campaign," Jensen said. "We each got 18 percent of the vote. He ended up chair of the [Democratic National Committee]. I ended up state College Democrats president."
Most recently, Jensen was the full-time campaign manager for a Superior Court Judge candidate who narrowly lost his race.
He will be too busy for a 2007 run for office himself, but he said he might eventually try for a seat on the Chapel Hill town council.
Congratulations, Tom! A well deserved honor and an astute choice by the N&O.