Being Young and Democratic in Logan County
On April 25, Logan County Democratic Party Chair Cody Engelhaupt will face a tough decision that most political figures don't have to make: attend the county's biggest Democratic event of the year, or go to prom. Engelhaupt, 21, is slated to be a chaperone at the Sterling High School prom that night--at the same time the Logan County Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner is scheduled. Plus, earlier that day, Engelhaupt, who coaches middle-school and high-school hurdlers, has to travel to Scottsbluff, Nebraska, for a girls' track meet. If this doesn't sound like a normal Saturday for a 21-year-old, then maybe it's because Engelhaupt, who sports an Eddie Vedder-ish mop of curly brown hair, isn't an average 21-year-old. Elected to the RE-1 Valley school board at age 19, Engelhaupt works three jobs and is earning a business degree at Northeastern Junior College. And last month, Engelhaupt was unanimously named to head the county Democrats--making him most likely the youngest county chair in the state. To be sure, Logan County isn't exactly donkey country. More than half of the 9,146 registered voters in the county last December were Republicans. Last November, John McCain won the county by a 2-1 margin over Barack Obama. The county Democrats' annualÂ budget is onlyÂ about $900. Engelhaupt's first goal as chair is to rouse his fellow Democrats and get them to work. He's started holding party officer meetings for the first time, and the party central committee now holds monthly meetings--even if not all the committee members like it. "They're not gonna like it too much, but they're gonna do it," Engelhaupt says. Engelhaupt says his involvement with the Democrats stems from a desire to help "the little guy" win. "I feel I want to give back to my community, and the Democratic Party's kind of the underdog--and you always like to see them win, and their views are the same as mine," he says. "Helping the little guy come up--David versus Goliath--you might as well jump on it." But will Engelhaupt seek a future in politics? His answer is right out of a political spin doctor's playbook. "I want to see where that will go. I don't really want to really announce anything at this point," he says.
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