ZEPHYRHILLS — When he turned 18, Daniel Burgess Jr. not only voted, he ran for office. And won.
Now 22, Burgess is leaving the Zephyrhills City Council early for law school in Orlando. His term would have expired in April 2009, but his last day with the city will be July 28.
Zephyrhills' plan is to have voters decide who fills his empty seat in November, during the presidential election.
In 2005, Burgess was the youngest member ever elected to the Zephyrhills council. Two years later, voters overwhelmingly decided to keep him in office. Burgess nabbed more than 80 percent of the vote.
During his civic tenure, Burgess attended college full time and juggled work along with his city duties.
He graduated from the University of South Florida in May with a bachelor's degree in political science.
Politics, however, isn't his career of choice. There's too much chance, he said. Voters could love you one election cycle and then vote against you the next.
"You could be gone within a lickety-split," Burgess said.
So he decided on law school.
For the past three years, Burgess has worked as a legal assistant at a Zephyrhills law firm. The work experience piqued his interest in the field, he said, but his years on the council gave him the confidence to apply to law school and make it happen.
"It developed me into who I am," he said. "Politics can make or break you, and it made me."
In August, Burgess begins his studies at the Barry School of Law in Orlando. He doesn't know which type of law he will focus on yet.
As the days trickle by, Burgess is becoming more excited about the next chapter of his life. He's also getting nervous.
"This decides my career, my wellbeing and how I am going to live the rest of my life," he said. "It's a big step."
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 521-6518.