Dianne Frances D. Powell
At 3:31 p.m. Thursday, the exact moment Clinton resident Grant Martin Shortridge turned 18 and became of legal age, he also became a public official.
Shortridge sat at a long table in Clinton City Council chambers — flanked by two Vermillion County Republican Party officials — waiting patiently for the clock to tick its way to the hour of his birth.
When the moment arrived, Vermillion County Republican Party chairman Tim Yocum signed an appointment naming Shortridge the new precinct committeeman in Clinton City 2.
“There’s no way anyone can be younger than you” to be appointed precinct committeeman, Yocum said as he watched the clock for the exact time to sign the document; 18 is the minimum age for the position.
The other person who sat beside Shortridge is Lorena Turchi, Vermillion County Republican Party vice chair.
“We’re very proud of you. We got great plans for you,” Turchi told Shortridge, a senior at South Vermillion High School.
Later, Yocum showed Shortridge a map of the precincts and presented him with a book containing important documents of the constitution.
Precinct committeemen handle many election or voting-related duties within their assigned precincts. They encourage people to vote, recruit precinct volunteers and other duties.
Shortridge said his main goals are to increase voter turnout and increase the number of 18- to 24-year-olds who vote.
By accepting the position and serving at the earliest possible opportunity, it “sends a message to young people to become involved,” Shortridge said.
“I’ve had an interest in politics,” from a very young age, Shortridge said.
Last election, as part of the party’s Chairman Mentoring Program, Shortridge went with Yocum to polling locations, the courthouse and media outlets. He learned a lot about the political process from this experience.
And he is fulfilling a family legacy.
His father, Marty Shortridge — who looked on as his son received his appointment — served two terms in the Clinton City Council. Grant Shortridge’s grandfather, Henry, also served in the council.
“He [Grant] really enjoys it. He wants to try to make a difference,” his father said.
The proud dad said he used to take his son with him to city council meetings.
“Everytime I voted, he’d be there. ... He’d be interested in it and have an opinion,” he added.
“I think they need honesty in politics like he is,” Marty Shortridge said. “They need new blood.”
Yocum agreed: “We’ve been trying to get young people involved in Vermillion County politics. We need new leaders.”
Yocum hopes to get 100 percent in the 18-to-24 age group registered to vote, adding that he wants to give young people a chance to be involved and be successful.
And Shortridge wants to become one of those leaders.
In addition to applying to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (he plans to major in civil or mechanical engineering), Yocum is also preparing for a life in politics.
“I’d love to serve here in Vermillion County,” he said.
And turning to Yocum, whom he called his mentor, he joked, “ … and take your job.”
“Someone’s got to do it someday,” Yocum responded.
And someday, Shortridge hopes eventually serve in Congress.
But for now, he is starting local and encouraging fellow young people to vote.
“It’s important for them to get registered to vote. We need them to vote on things that are affecting their future,” Shortridge said.
Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or firstname.lastname@example.org.