TIFFIN - Not too surprisingly, the three newest members of Tiffin City Council attended Columbian High School together. What's unusual is they graduated just four years ago.
Twenty-two-year-olds Aaron Montz and Rich Cline took their seats on council Jan. 1, while Tyler Shuff, 23, was sworn in Monday night after local Republicans chose him from a pool of six candidates to fill the unexpired term of Wilma Klopp.
The trio are believed to be the youngest council members in Tiffin since 1937, when Thomas Zoller was elected at age 22.
"All you ever read about are young people who want everything given to them. They want the benefits of change, but they aren't willing to work for change," said Mayor Jim Boroff, who added that these three young Republicans don't appear to fit that stereotype.
"I think these three all have good heads on their shoulders," Mr. Boroff said. "I think the fear is young people are out to make changes just for sake of doing it. I don't sense that at all. I sense them being responsible and responsive to the public."
Mr. Montz likes to think he helped spark interest in local politics among his peers when, as a high school senior, he ran for mayor against longtime incumbent Bernie Hohman.
"I was tired of all my classmates saying, 'My vote doesn't matter. I don't care what happens with the country,'•" Mr. Montz recalled. "I thought, this is sad. When it's not a presidential election, you're lucky to get 25 percent of the people to vote."
So, at 17, he threw his hat into the ring for mayor. He didn't win, but he worked hard, knocking on doors and meeting people. He ended up with 40 percent of the vote - more than even he expected to get.
"It was very exciting," Mr. Montz said. "I think what I did and the fact I did get that much of the vote inspired other people."
Four years later, as a senior political science and history major at Heidelberg College, he ran uncontested for 2nd Ward councilman. He recruited his former classmate, Mr. Cline, to run for the 4th Ward council seat.
Mr. Cline, who was at the time finishing his degree in political science and marketing at Kent State University, jumped at the opportunity. He won the election with 60 percent of the vote.
"I just really felt I was being called to work with people in a way that I would actually be making a difference and making something better," said Mr. Cline, who is married and works as marketing director for Hearth and Home Assisted Living in Tiffin.
Now, Mr. Shuff, a sales consultant for Tiffin Ford-Lincoln-Mercury, is joining his former classmates on council to tackle issues ranging from sewer separation to flood wall repairs.
Mr. Shuff said he believes he and his young colleagues bring "energetic leadership and fresh ideas" to council. He wants to work on attracting new businesses to Tiffin so that everyone who wants a job can find one.
"Tiffin's a great town," he said. "It's a safe town. It's got a lot of good qualities about it, but I see a lot of areas where I think we can make it better."
Mr. Montz, who works for Meijer as a manager trainee, also is focused on enticing businesses to locate in Tiffin, including stores and restaurants that people now have to drive to Findlay to visit.
"I think our youth and our different perspective of things will change the city and allow things to happen," Mr. Montz said. "Too often, you have people who say, 'That's the way we've always done things and it works,' The way I look at it, we can always better ourselves."
David Koehl, chairman of the Seneca County Republican Party executive committee, said the party wasn't actively recruiting young people to run for council seats, but he's glad they came forward.
"I think they'll work hard at it. I don't think they'll take this for granted," Mr. Koehl said. "I think they're very concerned with the problems the city faces and want to see what they can do in office to make it a better community."
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