Blugold takes a seat in Eau Claire County Board

Lydia Boerboom won the election for District 16 on April 3

More stories from Nicole Bellford


Photo by Nicole Bellford

Lydia Boerboom became the youngest member on the current Eau Claire County Board at age 21 when she won the election for District 16 on April 3.

Although many college students may integrate the responsibility of working a part-time job into their daily routine, few search for employment opportunities within the realm of representation in Eau Claire’s local government.

That is, with the exception of 21-year-old Lydia Boerboom, who is now the youngest of 29 total members on the Eau Claire County Board by nearly 15 years. Boerboom won the seat for District 16 during the April 3 election and is to be sworn in on Tuesday.

Despite her young age and student status, Boerboom said her new position in local government is all part of a lifelong passion for connecting with her community and making it stronger. Boerboom’s supporters and mentors said they are confident in what she can accomplish over the next two years.

Boerboom, a third-year social work student born and raised in Chisago City, Minn., said her decision to attend UW-Eau Claire for college was a simple one. Boerboom said she was initially attracted to Eau Claire both for the area’s natural beauty and strong sense of community.

“It was definitely the community that brought me here,” Boerboom said. “I think as a freshman, the community just like swept me up. They were like, ‘come here, we’re going places, we are going to do stuff.’”

In terms of her interest in the government scene, Boerboom said campus involvement in organizations such as the Progressive Students and Alumni, known as PSA, is what caused the initial spark. Boerboom said these experiences opened her eyes to the importance of local government, showcasing how building relationships with one another can create a strong community.

Around this time, Boerboom said she met Jeremy Gragert, the recently-elected Eau Claire City Council representative for District 3. Boerboom said Gragert became a mentor to her in the realm of local government.

Gragert said he thought Boerboom had potential from the beginning.

“So she’s been just a really good leader of the organization (PSA),” Gragert said. “We really felt that she would be a great representative for students and for community members and just has a really good mindset about the importance of making sure other people’s’ voices are heard in local government.”

Aside from university involvement, Boerboom said she began to invest much of her time attending local government meetings and working with PSA members — which includes current UW-Eau Claire students as well as alumni — to build a bridge between community members and the college campus.

“I was like wow, that’s so cool that we can all work together like this and make things happen,” Boerboom said. “And I was seeing what kind of results involvement got.”

Specifically, Boerboom said she discovered a passion for the realm of human services, which focuses on how policies can affect individuals in a community. She said human service organizations play a big role in the Eau Claire County Board, which is responsible for determining county-wide services.

With this in mind, Boerboom said it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try her hand at something she loved to do when it came time to run for County Board.

“That is what really sparked my interest in County Board,” Boerboom said. “We are bringing all these things together and we are incorporating people into the decisions we are making from all over.”

Looking at the process of beginning her campaign, Boerboom said it all began in October 2017 when she officially decided to run. On Dec. 1, Boerboom needed to collect a set amount of signatures for her nomination before announcing her campaign. Once that was done, she said the real work began.

Boerboom said she worked alongside hundreds of volunteers on her campaign, including friends, mentors, peers, current government leaders and community stakeholders. She said the bulk of her campaign work occurred between January and March, as she engaged in a process called canvassing, which entails promoting her campaign via social media, phone calls, mail, yard signs and door-to-door conversation.

Boerboom canvassed across District 16, which includes much of the university neighborhoods in the Water Street area and the city’s west side, near Half Moon Lake.

Reflecting on the campaign process, Boerboom said she had a hard time balancing school and her financial stability. More than anything, however, she said she recalls facing struggles attracting voters due to her age, labeling it as her biggest barrier.

“I talked to voters who were like, ‘I’m not going to vote for you because you are as young as my grandaughter,’” Boerboom said. “And you just kind of have to accept that sometimes, that that’s not going to be your voter. You have to move on to the next person who will vote for you because of the values that you bring instead of the age that you are.”

On election day, Boerboom said she dedicated the entirety of April 3 to the event. She provided rides to students who needed transportation to the polls, texted friends reminding them to vote and helped students in the process of voter registration with their Eau Claire address.

However, around 5 p.m. that day, she said she hit a wall of emotional exhaustion. She said this prompted her and a friend to take a break and go for a swim in UW-Eau Claire’s swimming pool for a couple hours before attending an election results celebration scheduled for 8:01 p.m. at The Lakely, one minute after the polls closed.

Boerboom said this much-needed break helped her relax and take the weight of the campaign off her shoulders. So much so, that she forgot about the results for a small period of time until she began receiving congratulatory texts from friends around 8:45 p.m.

At this point, Boerboom realized she had won the election, beating incumbent David Mortimer. She said upon hearing the news, she rushed over to The Lakely to celebrate.

“So that night was really fun getting so many hugs from friends and running mates and mentors who helped me along the way,” Boerboom said. “Like I didn’t win tonight, we all won tonight, like all the hard work and all the support that I have gotten over the past few months is all of our work. We did this all together.”

Jeff Smith, a Citizen Action organizer and treasurer for Boerboom’s campaign, said he was a mix of excitement and nerves leading up to the announcement of her victory. When he heard the election news, he said he knew she had surprised not only the community but herself.

Looking at the next two years, Smith said he thinks Boerboom will provide a fresh perspective and element of much-needed representation to the County Board throughout her term.

“I think Lydia is going to turn some heads, get people to think a little differently about representation by a young person from that area,” Smith said. “I think it’s about time that population was served on the county board.”

Overall, Boerboom said she plans to continue bringing the community together during her term.

“I hope that I can be the connection between the county and that person, that individual, group organization, community service whatever it may be,” Boerboom said. “That’s my overall goal is just to be a strong community connection between what’s happening on one side in the community and what’s happening on the legislative side.”