Andre Ruby thinks he can oust Centerville's popular first-term mayor in November and become the youngest person to lead the city.

The proof, the 17-year-old says, lies in what he's accomplished in the four days that have followed the announcement of his candidacy: Supporters have pledged $250 for the campaign, and Ruby has lined up key endorsements from a prominent landlord and the managers of a local convenience store and burger joint.

"I have high expectations," Ruby said after he rattled off a long list of goals for the southern Iowa town of about 5,500. "I will win this election."

But city leaders past and present say Ruby faces an uphill battle against incumbent Marsha Mitchell.

"My own personal feeling is that the mayor, she'd be hard to beat," City Councilman Bill McAfee said. "She's done a fantastic job. That's my opinion."

Former Councilwoman Louise Kennis, 77, added: "I'm just so pleased with our present mayor that I have no reason to beat anybody else's drum."

Nevertheless, she appreciates Ruby's enthusiasm.

"He's a nice young man and has a lot of zip. I think he thinks he's the next Obama," Kennis, a Democrat, said.
Ruby, who turns 18 next month, said that he doesn't think poorly of Mitchell, either, but that he has a better plan to address city issues.

His first goal is to repeal or change a loitering law that targeted young people who hang out at the town square, a traditional gathering spot. Police stepped up enforcement of the law a couple of years ago amid complaints about noise.

"They've taken tradition and thrown it out the window," Ruby said. "In Centerville, we haven't been giving everyone equal opportunity."
Ruby said the city should also contribute to a senior citizens club. About a quarter of the town is 65 or older, census figures show.

Ruby also wants to attract manufacturing jobs, reintroduce the elementary school's Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, and hire a grant writer to go after state and federal money needed to renovate a municipal swimming pool.

Mitchell describes Ruby as an intelligent leader among his peers, but she doubts he has the experience to lead the city.
"I would think anyone at the age of 17 or 18 would not be ready for that, dealing with multimillion-dollar budgets and union personnel," said Mitchell, who retired in 2006 after 20 years in administration at Alliant Energy. "But I would never discourage him."

Ruby graduated early from high school last month. He takes classes at the local community college but eventually wants to go to medical school at the University of Iowa. Those plans will be slightly delayed if he's elected in November.
"After my term is done, I'd run again if the office still offers something I need to help the people of Centerville," he said.