Tallahassee Trend - Young Elected Officials Network
Elected to office at age 23, Andrew Gillum says he felt unprepared at times for what lay ahead. So he created a program that supports other young officials.
Bullard was schooled in politics from a young age. His father, Ed Bullard, served in the Florida House from 2000-08, and his mother, Larcenia Bullard, from 1992-2000. She’s now a Florida state senator. But he says he was still confronted by the same pitfalls that young officeholders face — “people wanting to pat you on the head and treat your ideas as if they’re whimsical.” Being able to “bounce ideas” off others in the YEO Network, Bullard says, really encouraged him to “step out there and share your ideas and not be timid and not be intimidated by older colleagues.”
Kristin Dozier, a Democrat who ran for a seat on the Leon County Commission when she was 34 and took office at age 35, says the group “gets into the weeds” on policy issues that can run the gamut from education to health care to paid sick days, but she also enjoys having a “safe environment” where she can sit with people facing similar challenges and “dig into all the aspects of the job.”
The group’s annual conference, she says, also provides invaluable content and connections. Recent conferences, for instance, have featured Education Secretary Arne Duncan, presidential adviser David Plouffe and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. At the most recent conference in June, attendees received advice on everything from the art of fundraising to pursuing self-employment through business startups. Dozier says women in the group also benefited from advice from Christine Jahnke, a D.C.-based speech coach who has prepped high-level officials, including First Lady Michelle Obama and Sen. Al Franken.
Wakulla County commissioner Alan Brock, 31, says he values the staff support the YEO Network provides in helping young leaders develop their ideas and policies. “They have made me aware of many opportunities, and I have worked with their staff to discuss some of my policy initiatives before presenting them.”
Gillum says the YEO Network has “done exactly what I’ve envisioned from the beginning. What we can’t make up for in years of experience, we’ve got to figure out, real quickly with some important training that we can offer our members.”
Building a Pipeline
Andrew Gillum’s Young Elected Officials Network targets elected officials under age 35. He’s since formed two other groups aimed at educating young people who might be interested in pursuing a career in politics:
» Frontline Leaders Academy — Frontline is geared toward people under age 25 who are interested in one day running for public office or being part of a campaign. The program consists of an eight-month-long training program.
» The Young People For — YP4 gives college students in 36 states access to skills and training to help them become political leaders on their campuses and in their communities. “Our whole model is about how do we build and strengthen the next pipeline of leaders. That’s what I try to imbue in the programs I develop,” says Gillum. “I don’t want to be the last youngest person ever elected to the city commission.”