Alisher Aminov, 18, and Zaelys DeArce, 19, of Lebanon, are running as independent candidates in the upcoming election.

The teenagers are attempting to become the youngest council members in the history of Lebanon city. 

The two candidates canvassed door-to-door, stopped people on the street, and attended events in the community to gather the signatures necessary for appearing on the November ballot.

Alisher Aminov has a conversation with a Lebanon County resident on their doorstep.

DeArce is contending with Republicans Joe Morales and Karen S. Haitos and Democrat Christopher Norwood for a four-year seat on council. Voters will be asked to vote for two candidates at the polls.

Aminov is running for a two-year seat against Republican Brian Martin.

Aminov’s parents are missionaries so he has lived all over, but he’s been a resident of Lebanon County for the past seven years, and a decade in total.

DeArce was born in Lebanon County and has lived here continuously since her elementary school days in the Lebanon School District. 

DeArce likes to spend her time in Lebanon going on walks at Swatara State Park and Stoever’s Dam Park, or playing basketball at South Hills Park. When Aminov’s not canvassing, he likes to spend his time downtown.  

When asked what interested them in becoming City Council members, Aminov talked about his lifelong fascination with government. He also mentioned his passion for serving his community.

Aminov learned about the election when he was away, teaching in Alaska.

“When I moved back, I was just trying to get reacquainted with what was happening locally and found out that several of the City Council seats were completely unopposed. And I didn’t really like that,” Aminov said. “I don’t like that from the perspective that we have a really diverse community here, and I think that people should have a choice.”

Read More: Here’s what’s on the ballot for the Nov. 2 election

With his interests in government and serving his community, Aminov decided that, with the unopposed seats, the timing was right to run for the post. 

For DeArce, “Being part of city council is important because I feel like there’s a lack of representation in the demographics of the city. We have about 50% of a minority group, predominantly Hispanic. We also have African American and Arab populations. And every single City Council member is above the age of 25 and a Caucasian male.” 

DeArce talked about her involvement in the community as well as her awareness and understanding of the problems that Lebanon County residents face. She continued on to discuss how she would use this information to keep the community moving in a positive direction.

The two candidates mentioned several campaign issues they feel would receive bipartisan support from other council members.

According to DeArce, some small businesses in Lebanon County open after three to six months of working with the local government to get their certifications and licenses. Yet for others, it takes more than a year. DeArce proposed a more organized system for small businesses within the local government. 

“To my knowledge, from all of the local businesses that I have talked to, we don’t really have an organized start-up plan for people who are looking to be entrepreneurs,” DeArce said. 

The system she proposed would model those of nearby cities, such as Lancaster and Reading. In addition, the increased communication between the local government and small businesses would not only benefit these businesses, but it would also benefit the local economy in general. 

DeArce emphasized the diverse demographic of Lebanon County and that equal opportunities were needed for people of all ethnicities to be represented, and their needs heard and considered, by the local government. 

In addition to ideas related to downtown business support, Aminov expressed his desire to support the local police departments as one of his initiatives. 

“To my understanding, our police department is notably understaffed,” Aminov said. “For a city with a size of 25,000 people over four square miles, it’s not enough. And it’s not enough to be able to develop relationships within the community.”  

If both candidates could change anything about the local government with the snap of their fingers, Aminov would make the local government and what they are working on more transparent to residents. DeArce would take some of the responsibility off of the mayor’s shoulders, making it more of a team effort through increasing the involvement of the legislative branch.

They both would increase the communication between the government and residents.

“I’m canvassing a lot right now,” Aminov said. “I go and knock on people’s doors. I visit people’s businesses. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t really intend to stop if I get elected.

“I believe that it is the responsibility of the government to seek the voice of the people, and not for the people to force their way into the government,” he added. “And as a representative, I believe that … you are elected to bring the ideas, the voice, and the needs of the people to the government level.” 

In terms of involving residents in the decision-making process, DeArce pointed to low turnouts at City Council meetings. She said there is room for growth in the local government’s social media presence and the ways in which social media itself serves as an avenue to share information with residents. DeArce also discussed revamping the newsletter that is sent out to local residents.

Aminov also proposed more open forum City Council meetings that would give local residents the opportunity to propose their own ideas and solutions. 

“I just really encourage people to go and vote on Nov. 2,” DeArce said. “Local elections are probably one of the most important elections. They affect [residents] directly. And it is important for people to go out and let their voices be heard.”

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Lexi Gonzalez is a reporter for LebTown. She is currently completing her bachelor's degree at Lebanon Valley College.