The Honorable Edward Andrews, Youth Commissioner for the City of Berkeley, Calif., is running late. In just a few minutes, he has to be at the City Council auditorium to chair a meeting of the committee for homeless and needy children. But first the Commissioner has to take care of something: He takes a quick run through the playground, dangles from the monkey bars, shimmies down the slide and clambers over the obstacle course. Then he dusts himself off, straightens his hair and draws himself up to his full height. Commissioner Edward “Teddy” Andrews, 4’11” and 8 years old, is ready to go cut some deals.
Teddy, an only child who lives with his mother, a writer, may well be the youngest politician in the country. His political career started last year as a special project for his civics studies. For hands-on experience, he began campaigning for Councilman Donald Jelinek, who was running for reelection. Teddy put up posters and canvassed door-to-door for his candidate. Since Chinese is one of the languages Teddy studies in private tutoring, he was especially useful with Chinese-speaking constituents. “Their reaction was pretty simple,” he says. “It was like ‘Wow!’ ”
Once reelected, Jelinek did what any politician would do—he used his influence to take care of his hardworking supporter. So, just before Christmas, Teddy was sworn in as a Youth Commissioner. Andrews is not, however, just another political timeserver; he has a platform, and he’s hard at work trying to implement it. “I walked around Berkeley,” he says, “and saw a lot of homeless and needy kids. And I just thought of a plan.” Teddy’s plan is a “wish list” that ranges from paper, pencils and clothing to school buses and scholarship money for children in local housing developments and homeless centers. Having decided what was needed, Teddy and his fellow committee members (all of them teenagers) have set about soliciting Berkeley merchants for money and supplies to distribute to 23 charitable organizations.
Teddy’s wish list was the No. 1 topic at the February 21 meeting of the City Council, chaired by Mayor Loni Hancock. “Teddy,” the Mayor says, “is a remarkable kid, and we’re proud he’s serving on the Commission. He shows a real grasp of the issues and an amazing facility with languages. Besides that, he’s a really nice young man.”
The next item on Teddy’s agenda is getting a bathroom installed in the children’s clubhouse at Berkeley’s Willard Park, since the outdoor bathrooms have become a haven for drug dealing. Then the Commissioner intends to become more ambitious. “I want to convince adults to put away their childish war toys and start working on the real war of saving the environment,” he says.
For the long term, Teddy’s ambitions are apolitical; he plans to become a scientist—”probably in robotics or paleontology.” On the other hand, asked if he’d ever be interested in being President of the United States, Andrews says simply: “Of course.”