FREMONT — Ishan Shah bills himself as just another Fremont "Average Joe." And, on many levels, that seems like a good description.
He's 16, the son of Indian immigrants, a solid student at Mission San Jose High School, a movie buff, a Warriors fan and an aspiring doctor.
But there is something a little different about Shah.
At a coffee shop Wednesday afternoon, the lanky 6-foot-3 high school junior, sporting a neck tie and a wrinkle-free striped shirt, stood out from more than a dozen peers, mostly clad in T-shirts and sandals.
It didn't help that instead of a textbook, Shah was carrying around a Fremont Redevelopment Agency report.
Shah wants to be on the City Council, and he doesn't want to wait until he has a job, kids, a belly or receding hairline.
He will turn 18 on June 14, 2010, at which time he already will have been one year into his campaign to unseat Anu Natarajan or Bill Harrison in the November 2010 council race.
"I have a driving passion to make Fremont a better place," he said. "I love the city. I love the people. I love the culture."
Shah already has a Web site and an exploratory committee made up of about 12 peers, including a statistician who has perfect grades in his college-level statistics class, he said.
But don't think for a moment that Shah's candidacy is an adolescent prank.
If Fremont government and politics were a class, he'd get at least a B.
Shah isn't trying to pretend that he's 40. His age might be a disadvantage on the campaign trail, but he thinks it will be what sets him apart on the council.
"You've never had a council member who had an 18-year-old mind thinking the way an 18-year-old thinks," he said.
And what do teens think of Fremont? Well, Shah loves it, but his classmates? "The term I hear about Fremont is 'boring,'"" he said.
Shah would like to spice up the town by expanding Pacific Commons and getting a modern movie theater built there. He'd also like to see better bus transportation to the shopping center since that is where he and his friends like to hang out.
Shah wanted the A's to move to town and supports incentives to lure businesses. He also is calling for better cooperation between the council and school board, which haven't seen eye-to-eye on fees charged to developers.
Last year, he volunteered in Rep. Pete Stark's Fremont office and helped out on Mayor Bob Wasserman's campaign. He also made a failed bid for student body treasurer.
Shah decided to run for the City Council this time around because it has more responsibilities than student government or school board, and he thinks Fremont youth aren't well represented.
Several of his classmates seem sold on him. But a few older folks have been less pleasant, Shah said.
Doubts are par for the course for any young politician, said Milpitas Mayor Bob Livengood. He was first elected to the City Council as a 20-year-old in 1975 — 17 years before Shah was born.
"He will be faced with a lot of questions, said Livengood, who recommended that Shah first get himself appointed to a city commission. "(Voters) do expect ... some experience in city government."
Shah is still learning the ropes.
He quickly took back a statement on his Web page last week insinuating that sitting council members were corrupted by moneyed interests. Shah is asking people to contribute loose change to his campaign.
Meanwhile, he is reading City Council meeting reports and keeping tabs on The Argus' blog to become more informed. And he is confident that Fremont voters will see a tie-wearing, city report-reading teenage City Council candidate as one their own.
"I watch the same movies .".". I go to the same restaurants," he said. "How can my competitors match my connectivity?"