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Public Servant

Cody Combs has yet to finish high school, but come January, he will hold a seat on the City Council in Alliance, Ohio.

Last month, the 18-year-old senior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Louisville, Ohio, won the last of three at-large seats for the city of 24,000, located 60 miles southeast of Cleveland. By 41 votes, he beat two incumbents, including the previous election's top vote-getter.

"I decided to run for the City Council at-large position as soon as I turned 18," which was also when he became a registered voter, Mr. Combs said in an e-mail. "I never envisioned beyond my wildest dreams that it would make so many people reflect on politics and current events in general."

At first, he said, people didn't take his campaign seriously.

"Occasionally, I had to show my driver's license a few times to prove that I was 18 years of age!" Mr. Combs said.

But eventually, the support came through.

"Overall, I believe [my age] helped our campaign tenfold because it gave the voters a unique choice," he said.

During his campaign, Mr. Combs introduced himself to residents in door-to-door visits, posted neon-green yard signs, and even appeared as a guest on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."

"We pushed the fact that I was young and the fact that I was 'as clean as they come, not tied to any special interests,' " he said. "That very message also made people look at my age as an advantage rather than a disadvantage."

During his two-year term, Mr. Combs plans to listen to the needs of his constituents, he says, and not push an agenda on them.

"I want to help the city of Alliance reinvent its political mechanism so it is more responsive to what the people want," he said.

Returning board members are optimistic about working with the young politician, who ran as an independent and will be paid a small monthly stipend.

"He's very bright. He's personable," said John Benincasa, the City Council president. "I expect that he's going to be a quick learner, but it's going to be a new experience for both of us."

As for the new strains on his schedule, the wrestler at the Catholic high school says he isn't worried about balancing his responsibilities.

"I've done that my whole life with athletics, school, and jobs," he said. "My new job is being the councilman of Alliance, Ohio, and I'm loving it."

—Olivia Doherty

Vol. 23, Issue 14, Page 3

Published in Print: December 3, 2003, as Take Note

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