After reading Tim Steller's column last Wednesday about ambitious, young people running for public office ("Can Kwasman avoid the Glassman model?"), I began to reflect on the importance of cultivating our next generation of leaders.

To my way of thinking, our community would be a better place if we had a few more Rodney Glassmans. I was impressed with the gifts Rodney was born with, but more impressed with how he chose to use them.

I first met Rodney when he was 21 years old. Our friendship was built while singing together at charity fundraisers and visiting at community events. Rodney clearly lives by setting personal goals, one of which was to become highly educated. Through hard work, perseverance and dedication (and a boatload of energy) he earned several graduate degrees, including his juris doctorate and Ph.D. in arid land resource sciences.

While this is impressive, what got my attention was how he chose, as a young man, to use his talents and education. He raised more than $1 million for Tucson-area children's organizations through his Glassman Foundation. He chose to participate in Greater Tucson Leadership, volunteered on local political campaigns and served on a myriad of charity boards.

The benefit of this early involvement was when Rodney, at 29, chose to run for Tucson City Council - he was elected. As a councilman, he led the way for Tucson to be the home of the nation's first mandatory commercial rainwater harvesting, residential gray-water plumbing, and solar-water heating plumbing ordinances. His concern for the future is evidenced by the two children's books he and his wife, Sasha, have written and published regarding conservation.

Not every young person should be exactly like Rodney, but we need more young people choosing to be actively involved in our community and its organizations. We need to make sure that we consciously include them on our boards and in our community activities.

We as the "seniors" in this community have the responsibility to mentor our young folks. We must bring them into the fold and give them the opportunities to choose to be participants, to make a difference because they are way ahead of us in how they look at the world and its future.

Tucson's loss was when Rodney moved to Phoenix with his family. But look around. I knew a girl who, when she was in sixth grade and sitting in on a planning session at the Children's Museum, said, "Let's stop talking and DO something!" Fifteen years later she's back in town as an experienced attorney.

These young folks are out there. We have the responsibility to see that no matter their talents and education, each has a unique set of gifts and we need them actively involved in our great community. The Glassman Model is about choices … ours and theirs.

Bob Walkup was the mayor of Tucson from 1999 to 2012. He can be reached at