You are never too young to make a difference in the public policy process, and for some, to run a winning campaign and serve in an official capacity is the way to do it.
Red Alert Politics recently named Derek Merrin as one of its Top 30 Influential Conservatives Under the Age of 30, and rightly so.
At just 19 years old and still a college student at the University of Toledo, Derek Merrin was elected in 2005 as councilman for the 5,500-person City of Waterville in Ohio. Derek broke the all-time record by receiving the most votes for a council seat, he said.
While a councilman, Derek supported placing a 115 percent limit on capital spending, through which the city could not spend 115 percent more than it anticipated receiving in revenue. The five-year capital budget was readjusted and saved taxpayers more than $600,000, Derek shared.
The following year--in 2006--Derek came to the Leadership Institute to take the week-long Campaign Leadership School, now called the Campaign Management School, which prepares campaign managers and candidates for their rigorous races.
"At the Leadership Institute, I gained a better understanding of how to win elections. Specifically, I learned how to optimize limited resources by identifying voters based on their voting history,” Derek said.
One year after Derek took LI's campaign training--then at age 21--he was elected in 2007 as mayor of Waterville, beating a three-term Democratic incumbent and becoming the youngest mayor in the state of Ohio.
"I ran a grassroots campaign where I knocked on virtually every door in Waterville. My message of fiscal conservatism and open government rang true with voters," Derek said.
“I ran for mayor to instill fiscal discipline in Waterville,” Derek continued to share with the Leadership Institute. “While in office, I reduced longevity bonuses by 50%, raised employee health contribution from 10% to 15%, reduced employees paid sick days from 18 to 10 days, and reduced the Public Works Department staff by one-third by contracting out many services. I helped stop the use of employees taking public vehicles home and eliminated Council's discretionary slush fund.”
As mayor, Derek testified before the Ohio Senate's Ways and Means Committee, where he advocated for the repeal of the Ohio death tax. He was only one of two mayors in Ohio that supported the unpopular repeal, he said, adding: "...because 80 percent of the estate tax revenue goes to local governments."
In 2009, the 23-year-old became a field representative for the Leadership Institute; he started conservative student groups on university campuses in his beloved Buckeye State.
“As a LI field representative, I helped start pro-life, 2nd Amendment, and other conservative groups on college campuses throughout Ohio,” Derek said. “LI helped me form long-lasting relationships with liberty-minded individuals. The Leadership Institute and the friendships I've made there have been a huge encouragement to me.”
Besides taking LI’s Campaign Leadership School in July 2006, Derek has taken LI’s Campus Elections Workshop, Youth Leadership School, and Field Representative training – all in 2009.
“The Leadership Institute is a premiere training organization for any conservative that desires to have an impact on public policy,” Derek said.
Check out LI’s 2013 training schedule here and get registered now.
Currently, Derek is a performance analyst for the State of Ohio Auditor.
“As a performance analyst, I help local governments and state agencies save tax dollars,” Derek shared. “I work to identify opportunities to streamline operations and become more efficient. I examine staffing levels, benefits, energy practices, and services to privatize.”
Derek is a 2008 graduate of the University of Toledo, where he received his bachelor of art’s degree in history and in 2009 he received his master’s in public administration from Bowling Green State University.
Derek spends several hours reading every day. His reading list includes the Bible, four newspapers, and another book, which is usually either a biography or financial investments book.
Please welcome Derek Merrin as LI’s Graduate of the Week.
To nominate a Leadership Institute graduate or faculty member to be featured as LI's spotlight of the week, please contact LI's External Affairs Officer Lauren Day, formerly Lauren Hart, at Lauren@LeadershipInstitute.org.