Unlike most teenagers, Anne Zabala’s first interest in local government was piqued by talk of city sidewalks and downtown restoration projects.
Now 25 years old, the Moscow City Council member remembers the first time she attended a city council meeting in her rural hometown of Middleton, Idaho. She was a sophomore in high school and attendance was mandatory, but her love of civic engagement only grew from there.
“(City councils) talk about some really amazing stuff, and you just never know until you go,” Zabala said.
Zabala left Middleton after graduating high school and found a home in Moscow. She then graduated from the University of Idaho in 2016 with an interdisciplinary degree in English and organizational science. Her more unconventional educational track, she said, allowed her to select her own learning experience.
“I was really interested in choosing my own path,” Zabala said. “A big part of my college experience was what I did outside the classroom.”
Zabala was an ASUI lobbyist and senator, a Center for Volunteerism and Social Action coordinator, the president of the Idaho Young Democrats and still found time to study abroad during her four years at UI. These activities, she said, are what gave her the knowledge and excitement for political engagement.
In addition to her recent election to a two-year council seat, Zabala works with UI’s Annual Giving Program as a crowdfunding coordinator. The program supports colleges, departments and programs at UI by raising private donations, according to the UI website.
“It sounds cheesy, but I have always wanted to find ways to make a difference,” Zabala said. “In college, that’s when I really understood how to use my knowledge and skillset to make those differences happen.”
Zabala said last year was a year of firsts. She bought a home in Moscow and hit the city council campaign trail all before the end of 2017.
After going through the process of buying a home at a young age, Zabala said she understands the housing challenges young Moscow community members face.
In addition to housing, Zabala aimed to create a platform that engaged all community members, especially the younger population. As one of six city council members, Zabala said she aims to look into the services Moscow currently provides and should be providing. Alternative transportation is one of the issues at the top of her list.
“I didn’t see housing or climate change or alternative forms of transportation really being talked about at the local level, and I wanted to change that,” Zabala said.
Zabala said she aims to be a helpful Moscow community member through her work on city council. During her campaign, many community members, specifically UI students, helped promote Zabala’s message.
Lauren Rickards, a third-year public relations major at UI, worked as a volunteer on Zabala’s campaign.
“I was drawn to Anne’s platform because of her progressive ideals, she was also the only candidate addressing environmental concerns,” Rickards said.
Like Rickards, Anthony Harrison, Zabala’s campaign field organizer, said Zabala stood out among the other candidates for tackling subjects others had not.
“I’m very excited to see Anne make progress toward bringing our generation’s concerns to the city council,” Harrison said. “One great example of this is her being the only city council member that had climate change as a talking point during the election.”
Unlike many recent UI graduates, Zabala said she knew she wanted to stay in Moscow. “(Moscow) is a place where if you want to learn something, someone will teach you, and if you want to do it, someone will help you,” Zabala said.
That same learning and community engagement pushed Zabala ahead, Rickards said.
Zabala encouraged voters to head to the polls last November through phone calls and knocking on doors — one of Zabala’s favorite ways to get out in the community, Rickards said.
Rickards was drawn to Zabala’s campaign because of her ability to connect not just with the community as a whole, but specifically with the student population.
“I think Anne will be good for city council because she has a lot of fresh perspectives,” Rickards said. “She’s young, female, and ambitious, which are all qualities that I think will benefit Moscow’s City Council.”
Zabala said she wanted to work with younger Moscow community members on her campaign because she hopes those voices will one day be part of the larger political conversation.
“I think it all goes back to wanting and needing that young representation at the local level,” Zabala said. “I just thought, ‘why not me’ and then I won.”
Hailey Stewart can be reached at email@example.com