Mackenzie Chang, one of the youngest candidates running for Fullerton City Council, believes he has the youth and energy to tackle issues from new and different angles.
The 31 year old grew up in Fullerton and graduated from UC Santa Cruz. He went on to earn his master’s degree in political science and government from the University of Northern Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“I love being able to research and figuring out what our problems are in different places,” Chang said.
Chang recalled a moment that peaked his interest in politics during his undergraduate education, which was watching James Carville, a political consultant, speak about the administration in office and debating different topics.
“That kind of just sparked a little thing in me and then I kept kind of trying to do that and volunteer in campaigns and getting involved,” he said.
In 2012, Chang interned for Sharon Quirk-Silva’s campaign in the 65th Assembly District election. During this time, he canvassed the area and helped advertise for the campaign.
To further his political experience, Chang interned in the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine working on political affairs. During this time, he gained public speaking experience through an outreach program, and he reviewed grants and proposals.
After the internship ended, he embarked on a two-year mission with the Peace Corps.
Hannah Amado, who worked as a Peace Corp volunteer with Chang said she met him in September 2017 when they worked at a summer camp in Ukraine. Amado said Chang’s presence was very calming.
“Whenever there was an issue, he was kind of able to offer his perspective in a respectful way and just kind of remind everyone that if there is a problem we’ll solve it together,” Amado said. “Having that Peace Corps experience has made him adaptable.”
Jessica Bessner, Chang’s Peace Corp colleague during a mission in a small village in Ukraine, said that they saw moments of depression within some of the campers and Chang would always be there to help.
“Mackie was very good at communicating with young people and so he really helped improve the situation,” Bessner said.
Chang was placed in a rural village where he assisted the community school.
“He had a lot of challenges during his time and on many occasions, he had the right to end his Peace Corps service early or asked to be transferred to another site because of how difficult things were, but he didn’t want to give up on his community, specifically on his students,” Bessner said.
Although Chang was not focused on politics during his time in the Peace Corps, he certainly had experiences with possible corruption in the Ukraine school’s administration. Rather than spending the school’s money on textbooks for the students, the administration instead spent it on furniture.
“Mackie decided to continue his service in that one village because he made really great connections with his students and he didn’t want to give up on them,” Bessner said. “Mackie is very dedicated and passionate about the things he does.”
Patrick O’Connor, a long-time friend of Chang’s and a peer from UC Santa Cruz said, “I think the way he deals with things doesn’t involve a lot of external sort of outbursts, which I think is a good quality for what he’s trying to go for.”
O’Connor said he may disagree with Chang on how certain aspects of pension reform should be resolved, but is confident that he will pursue his goals.
“It feels very correct for Mackie to be running on like a pension reform platform, because that’s exactly the issue I would expect him to be concerned about,” O’Connor said.
One of Chang’s biggest supporters is his mother, Donna Chang who described him as mature beyond his years. She also said that he is an environmentalist in the sense that he does not like to see signage posted.
“He has no signs anywhere in our city,” Donna said. “He says it distracts from what we all love about our city.”
Chang also worked alongside Meymuna Hussein-Cattan, the co-founder and executive director at Tiyya, a community-based organization. At Tiyya, Chang was a community partner with the refugee youth and family program.
Some of his responsibilities were to overcome obstacles with transportation for refugee families and building rapport with the students.
“If he can’t do something, he tells you very upfront,” Hussein-Cattan said. “I believe that he’ll do what he says he’ll do.”
Chang said he doesn’t think that many people with his background would run for local office, but believes those are the people who need to impact local government in order to help their communities.
“For me, what I best understand is people who want to give themselves and service the community. It’s part of why I’m running,” Chang said. “I would love for students to engage and tell me what they think, what they see, what their ideas are because that’s the most important thing for me.”