Before he was breaking stories of seismic proportions, international journalist Glenn Greenwald was a Lauderdale Lakes boy hoping to win a seat on the city council at age 17.
It has been quite the trajectory for the 46-year-old who most recently garnered national attention when he broke the story about Edward Snowden that has played out in media outlets globally.
When 29-year-old Snowden went public with proof of National Security Agency spying programs, Greenwald, a columnist for the British newspaper The Guardian, was there to tell the tale.
Political blood ran in the family and Greenwald’s own involvement in politics had early roots.
His paternal grandfather, L.L. Greenwald, was a Lauderdale Lakes city councilman from 1976 to 1980.
“I remember when hostages were being held during the Olympics,” said his mother Arlene Greenwald, 69, of Margate. “He was 5 years old at the time and he was really interested in that. I remember him being glued to the TV.”
The young Greenwald attended council meetings with his grandfather, becoming somewhat of a novelty.
Former Lauderdale Lakes Mayor Howard Craft suggested young Glenn channel his interest into a seat on the city’s recreation advisory board when he was just 8 years old to add a child’s perspective to a board geared for children. Greenwald later became the only teen member of the county Parks and Recreation Board from 1980 to 1984.
“I was strangely interested in municipal issues,” said Greenwald, now living in Rio de Janeiro. “Probably more than was normal for a child of that age.”
At 17, he took on the city council. In a town that was predominantly senior citizens and against a senior citizen-run board, a spunky Greenwald, a Nova High School senior, challenged the powers that had long been running the city.
It was his grandfather’s influence that fueled a political mindset that has carried on to this day.
“He was a crusader on behalf of the city and of the people of the city that were underrepresented, and that was really inspiring,” Glenn Greenwald said.
When the younger Greenwald decided to run, he looked to level the playing field. He joined other candidates on the ballot for city council, among them three incumbents four times his age: Morris Klein, 73, Lou Tenner, 73, and Harry Rosenkatz, 67.
“It just didn’t really go together, that this 17-year-old was so assertive about this quest for reform,” he said. “They were made really uncomfortable by the whole thing.”
Of the five candidates, he was the only one who campaigned, spending some time with a condo group, the Miami Herald reported in 1985.
Though he lost, drawing only 6.6 percent of the vote, he told the Herald in 1985 that he was not disappointed.
“I got 700 people who were convinced that I would be a good councilman.”
In a city where, at the time, the average council member was 74 and incumbents die more often than they are voted out of office, perhaps it was indeed an accomplishment.
“Just the fact that I didn’t come in last was a moral victory,” Greenwald said.
The high school Greenwald and today’s Greenwald aren’t far off from one another. He spent his years at Nova Middle School and Nova High School on the debate team, and used that skill to challenge people in power, whether they were teachers or principals.