We the (young) people

The fresh faces in local government

Bridget Kelley

More stories from Bridget Kelley


Photo by Bridget Kelley

Voters have been electing younger people into government, from the local to federal level.

Lydia Boerboom spent the months leading up to her 21st birthday planning and making sure everything was perfect. She was making phone calls, asking her friends for help and making sure things were going to run smoothly. However, the plans she made weren’t for her birthday — Boerboom was running a campaign.

To juggle being a student, working a part-time job and running a political campaign, Boerboom had to add more waking hours to her day, staying up later than she otherwise would in order to get everything done on time.

Boerboom was campaigning to join the likes of City Councilwoman Kate Beaton and Eau Claire area school board President Joe Luginbill — a growing club of twenty-somethings immersing themselves in local politics.

Those nights of lost sleep were worth it for Boerboom, a recent UW-Eau Claire graduate, who was elected to the Eau Claire County Board of Supervisors last year at age 21, making her the youngest person on the board, according to a previous Spectator article. 

Boerboom said her inspiration for running, in part, was seeing those she considered her peers running for office as well.

“It’s inspiring for young people seeing other young people getting involved,” Boerboom said. “I know that was the case for me. Kate Beaton … was a really big inspiration for me because I saw she was not so far from my age and was doing really active work here.”

Beaton, who graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 2014, was the youngest member of the Eau Claire City Council at age 24 when she was elected in 2016. Beaton was re-elected to her seat on city council Tuesday.  

Chandler Lorentz, a fourth-year chemistry student at UW-Eau Claire, also had his sights set on a city council seat. Lorentz ran in the primary elections, but did not get enough votes to continue.

Lorentz, an Eau Claire native, said he saw his childhood friend run for city council last year, and that’s what made him realize that he could run, too.

Lorentz said he felt he could make a difference for students, whose needs he said are being ignored.

“I’ve seen Eau Claire moving in a positive direction and wanted to continue that,” Lorentz said. I’ve seen where not caring as much can get us to.”

Apathy among young people is a thing of the past, Boerboom said.

In fact, according to a poll done last year by Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV, 79 percent of Americans ages 15 to 34 believe that one of their peers — someone from that same age group — would do a better job running the country.

“I think we’re finally starting to take things into our own hands and really wanting to take action about the things that are important to us,” Boerboom said. “I think that we’ve seen a surge of younger people getting involved because we care about these issues and there is direct action we can take.”

During the midterm election cycle, the American people saw Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old woman, get elected to the House of Representatives. The age minimum for the House is 25 years. Business Insider reported an increase of Millennials in the House after the midterm election, from 5 to 26.

There was a 13.5 percent decrease in the House of the Silent Generation — those born between 1928 and 1945, and a 13.3 percent decrease of Baby Boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964, though the Boomers still hold the majority in the House of Representatives, according to Business Insider. Millennials hold less than 6 percent of the seats.

 “Personally, I was sick of having very old people who didn’t think that we had serious issues trying to represent us,” Lorentz said.  “It’s our future that’s going to be impacted.”

Lorentz said he hopes to see more young people running in the coming years.

“I’m just trying to show people our age that we can make a difference,” Lorentz said. “We have to make a difference.”

Boerboom is expecting to see the number of young people getting into politics continue to rise as time goes on.

“We talk about things we care about, and we talk about those things with each other,” Boerboom said. “I think we’ve seen such a big surge already and I don’t see it stopping anytime soon.”

Kelley can be reached at [email protected]