Patrick Abel, an 18-year-old Charlotte High School graduate, ran for Charlotte County Soil and Water Conservationist Representative of District 4. He ultimately lost in a close race against Wendy White, but plans to stay active in politics. His campaign, dubbed “Free the Soil” promised a pot of dirt to each citizen in Charlotte County.
How did you become interested in local politics?
Throughout this summer, I began to witness first-hand the changing shift in the local political charge led by the youth of Charlotte County. I’ve lived in Port Charlotte almost my entire life, and as I became more aware of how people in my age group lacked a proper voice in the community, I felt encouraged by my friends and colleagues to kick off a campaign for local office.
What made you want to run for Soil and Water Conservationist Representative?
The office of Soil and Water Conservationist Representative is not only accessible to anyone with a passion for politics, but a settled home for those who wish to initiate environmental change in their community. Earlier this summer, I spent days upon days researching the office of Soil and Water Conservation to not only understand the functioning role of a representative, but to solidify my belief that, if given the opportunity, I could sow the seeds of positive change within my community.
How did you come to be passionate about the environment?
I’ve always considered myself a conservationist. Throughout high school, I spent a large portion of my time studying and reading about the life and career of President Theodore Roosevelt, who helped establish the National Parks and was a passionate environmentalist. Emulating his perspective on conservation with a 21st Century mindset is not only a goal of mine, but a mission. I truly believe that Charlotte County could set the example for the rest of Florida to follow when it comes to ending major and minor abuses to our ecosystem.
As a young person, how does your perspective differ from the majority of politicians in Charlotte County?
I’ve grown up with the youth of Charlotte County long enough to know that we are passionate about our local community. I believe that many of our representatives don’t receive the opportunity to listen to us with open ears. While we may differ in political beliefs, we can agree on our fight for a greater Charlotte County. I encourage any of our elected officials to sit down and learn about the issues affecting us. Whether we find common ground or not, my generation is willing to put in the effort to try.
What was the campaign experience like for you?
I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun being stressed out in my entire life. In all seriousness, I think campaigning was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life so far. My friends and I generated support from the local community through our Free The Soil movement. My campaign manager and I spent countless hours preparing and putting on “Free The Soil” rallies to promote our fight. With masks and signs, we managed to safely spread our message throughout Charlotte County far and wide.
What’s next in your political career?
While I’m happy with being the youngest loser in the state of Florida, I’m ready to get back out there and start campaigning again. As I’ve said many times before, the fight for environmental justice has not ended with my campaign. I’ll work with anyone who’s willing to put their all into building a better community locally, statewide, and even nationally. As for my future, I’ve officially announced my plans to run for the presidency in 2040. I currently have a running mate in mind and I’m actively working on building my platform every single day. Until then, however, I’ll be using my energy to continue our fight.
This interview has been edited for brevity.