MOUNT VERNON — As summer winds to a close, one can see young people all over the city enjoying their last few days of vacation, going to the movies, hanging out with friends, running for city council.
Running for city council?
Yes, that’s the case for one enterprising 18-year-old. Tyler Fehrman, already an old hand at campaigning for conservative causes and candidates dear to him, is running for council, making him the youngest candidate for public office in the state of Ohio this fall. And his campaign is neither a stunt nor a youthful lark.
Although he is starting classes next week at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, Fehrman’s focus this summer has been on getting out and talking with the public, as well as on fundraising. His success in the latter has been notable, as his candidacy for an at-large council seat has far outdistanced other candidates’ fundraising, according to reports released earlier this month by the Knox County Board of Elections.
“It’s my passion,” Fehrman said. “I don’t see that fading any time soon; I’m just getting started.”
The son of Jim and Teri Fehrman of Mount Vernon, Tyler said he comes from a family with a strong tradition of political awareness and involvement. He cites his grandfather’s instruction that it is a citizen’s duty to be aware of what is going on in the world and actively voting about it.
Fehrman’s own goals crystallized early, according to a family anecdote, which is that when Tyler was 3 or 4 years old, while sitting on the knee of family friend and Licking County politician Rep. Jay Hottinger, the boy announced his opinion that “Bill Clinton is a very bad man,” and that he himself wanted to become a politician someday. More properly, that’s “politician” in quotes, Fehrman said, because what he truly aspires to be is a statesman. Not wheeling-dealing and imposing his views as a traditional politician does, but, rather, serving his constituents.
“Unless you’re willing to help people out, it’s pointless,” Fehrman said.
Although always attentive to political issues, Fehrman got more directly involved after participating in a 2004 speech competition held in Lynchburg, Va., by the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association. Afterward, he was contacted by Ned Ryan of The Joshua Generation, a grassroots organization promoting ministry and conservative political candidates among young Christians, who asked him to help organize the Ohio chapter. After an initial hesitation, Fehrman committed to the project. Since then, Fehrman has worked on 18 different political campaigns in six different states.
Now Fehrman says he wants to give back to the community that shaped him by offering fresh vision to city council. Although he has words of praise for the job the current council members are doing, Fehrman said there is important work which also needs to be done in terms of crafting one-year, five-year and 10-year plans for the future in order to improve Mount Vernon’s employment situation and to manage its existing resources efficiently and insightfully.
Fehrman said the response to his candidacy on the streets has been warm and supportive, although there have been a vocal few who have criticized his youth. To counter that, Fehrman points out that he has enlisted the advice of experienced professionals such as Bill Moody, Fred Dailey, Margaret Ann Ruhl, Thom Collier, John Lybarger and others. He cites Collier in particular as being his mentor.
But above all, Fehrman points out that leadership isn’t determined by age. It is determined by a willingness to lead. And he said he is willing to go wherever his calling leads him, wherever there is work that needs to be done.