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Meet the 17-year-old behind Jerry Barilla's successful mayoral campaign

Alex McKenna, 17, managed a winning campaign for now mayoral-elect Jerry Barilla.

Not only did this year's election bring Steubenville a new mayor, it also brought to light a pretty unique story about a young man who played a major role in an voting process he isn't old enough to be part of.

Alex McKenna seems like your everyday 17-year-old -- until he brings up his political career.

"The biggest highlight so far has been winning the campaign with Jerry Barilla as the mayor of Steubenville," McKenna said.

That mayoral campaign is an election he couldn't even vote in.

"It's true. It's true. It's very true. I'm 17, so this is the last election that I won’t be able to vote in, thank goodness," McKenna said.

But his passion for politics started at an even younger age.

When he was 12, he asked his mother to drive him to the Mitt Romney headquarters in Pittsburgh.

"I just started making phone calls, and there was one lady, she wasn't sure who to vote for in the election, and I was able to convince her to vote for Mr. Romney at the time, and it sparked something in me, that this is something I want to continue doing," McKenna said.

He volunteered on both state and federal campaigns in the years to follow, and in 2017, he was introduced to Steubenville mayoral candidate Jerry Barilla.

"He started to ask me questions. Before he would even consider being the campaign manager, I had to meet his criteria, rather than he meeting my criteria," Barilla said.

"Very quickly we began to realize there was a connection, and that we would be able to work well together,” McKenna said. “I was very much in line with the policies he was talking about, and still am."

As campaign manager, McKenna was given the most responsibility he had seen in his young political career.

"Do we spend money here? How do we allocate these funds appropriately so that we're actually able to make the most effective campaign possible?" he said.

All while still juggling the responsibilities of being a teenager.

"I continued taking classes as a high school student. I had a part-time job in addition to the campaign, so it was a lot of balancing," McKenna said.

"To have him jump in, wholeheartedly, and the quality of the person that he is. It's like saying 'wow, if only the rest of America could be like Alex McKenna, we'd really be on a super path to being successful in everything we do," Barilla sound.

Barilla says he thinks his reputation would have carried him only so far, and that it was McKenna who pushed him further

"I became successful because of Alex McKenna," Barilla said.

"Leave last, show up first, take pictures, smile,” McKenna said. “He was always about me smiling. Smile, Jerry. Smile, Jerry. Smile, Jerry," Barilla said.

Now that the campaign is over, for the time being, McKenna can put politics to the side.

He loves to dance.

“I like to ballroom dance, especially,” McKenna said. “I'm not particularly a free-style person, I mean, I respect it, but I love to ballroom dance, swing dancing, waltzing, so I like to do that on the weekends," McKenna said.

But he won’t stay away from politics for long. He says he wants to study political science, and hopes to one day become an ambassador. He encourages others his age to aim just as high.

"Try to do whatever you can. If you can dream it, you can achieve it," McKenna said.

There’s a unique twist to this story. McKenna and his family moved into a home formerly owned by Barilla's sister.

Alex sleeps in the same bedroom Jerry's nephew once slept in.

They didn't realize this until partially through their campaign together.

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