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A community leader at 18
Reiss Kruger takes his seat on Hay River town counci

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Friday, November 6, 2009

HAY RIVER - At an age when his peers are studying for high school exams, Reiss Kruger will also be scouring over budgets, bylaws and assorted motions for the Town of Hay River.

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Reiss Kruger, an 18-year-old councillor, stands in front of Hay River Town Hall. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

The 18-year-old was sworn in as a town councillor on Nov. 2.

Kruger doesn't want to be looked at as strictly a youth councillor, but intends to serve the whole community.

"I don't think my job should be affected by the fact that I'm young," he said.

Kruger hopes older people will treat him as a peer and look to him for assistance.

"Even though I am young and obviously represent the interests of youth, that doesn't mean people should 'misunderestimate' me," he said. "That's right, I did quote Bush."

Kruger is virtually certain he is the youngest councillor ever elected in Hay River.

He turned 18 on Sept. 14, the last day to register as a candidate for the Oct. 16 election.

"That's about as close as you could possibly cut it," he said.

However, he doesn't know if he is the youngest councillor ever in the NWT or Canada, even though he has searched the Internet for information.

Kruger said he has always been interested in politics.

For example, he participated in a youth parliament and in a national debating event, and was a page at the legislative assembly.

"When I first went to page, I was like, 'Wow, I'm in the place where they make the laws,'" he said.

Kruger thought politics was cool and he couldn't wait to vote some day.

However, his interest in politics goes even further back to when he was about nine and began watching The National news program.

"Watching the world kind of fascinated me, and then eventually learning the workings of the world, so to speak, through politics also interested me," he said.

Kruger, who describes himself as an activist, ran for council because he believes he can make a difference and his youthfulness would be good for council.

"I think I can set an example to the youth of at least Hay River if not the Northwest Territories that politics is something that affects us, and we can affect it, as well," he said.

Kruger added apathy is not the way to go for young people, and he hopes he can inspire them towards action instead of inaction.

Along with serving on town council, Kruger is taking upgrading courses at Diamond Jenness Secondary School and is job hunting.

Aside from his age, he was also a different kind of candidate in Hay River in that he is a Muslim.

"I'm not like in your face about it, but I am open about it," he said, adding his religion, along with his youth, may have caused some people not to vote for him.

Kruger converted to Islam at 16 after reading The Quran and researching the religion.

"It kind of made sense to me, like it clicked," he said, adding that, at the time, he was an agnostic.

Hay River doesn't have a mosque and Kruger has never been to a mosque anywhere.

"I guess you can call me a self-taught Muslim," he said.

As for his chin beard, he said that was grown on a whim and is not an attempt to appear Muslim.

However, he added with a laugh, "It helps portray the Muslim in me."

Kruger said the fact he was elected as an 18-year-old and a Muslim is a good showing for Hay River.

"I think that's a step in the right direction for this town," he said.

When he was sworn in as a town councillor on Nov. 2, he did so on The Quran.

Kruger who was born in Iqaluit but has lived in Hay River for 16 years said one of his goals on council is to help create an attractive town for young people after their post-secondary education.

"What we really need to do is give them a town they want to come back to," he said.

That means diversifying the economy and recreational opportunities, he said, pointing to the arts, for example.

As for his own career plans, Kruger hopes to attend college or university.

"My career is kind of open right now," he said, adding he may possibly go into a full political career.

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