Last year Orange County saw its youngest elected official enter office when 18-year-old Connor Traut won a seat on the Ladera Ranch Civic Council. The Council is made up of 7 council members, each serving two-year terms. According to the Council website, “the Ladera Ranch Civic Council is the Ladera Ranch precursor to a local incorporated government that provides input to the Orange County governing boards as the Ladera Ranch civic representation. The purpose of this organization is to encourage and gather public comment on a range of topics which may affect the community of Ladera Ranch and represent the interests of our residents.”
Prior to Traut’s election, Placentia City Council member Jeremy Yamaguchi was the youngest elected official, at 19 years-old, upon his election in 2008. The election of Connor Traut to the Ladera Ranch Civic Council makes him the youngest elected Democrat in Orange County.
Traut moved to Ladera Ranch in 2009 and began his involvement in politics when he formed the Teen Leadership Council in 2010. This Council gave the youth population in Ladera Ranch more of a voice and a vehicle to give back to their community. Traut was recognized in the Ladera Ranch community when he became the Ladera Ranch Volunteer of the Year, 4th of July Parade Grand Marshall, Regional Occupation Program Distinguished Student of the Year, and an Eagle Scout, all while still in high school.
I spoke with Traut and asked what drove him to run for political office at such a young age.
“Ladera Ranch is the roots and wings to my start in public service. I attended all Council meetings for two years prior to my election, and knew that someday I would serve for the community and offer a unique perspective on the Council. That day came when I announced my candidacy on my 18th birthday because I figured “why wait?”
Traut is currently 19-years-old, and a freshman at Chapman University, studying political science and economics. He maintains a high GPA while continuing to work with his other council members in serving the residents of Ladera Ranch.
When asked how he managed to win a community-wide election, Traut said;
“My campaign for Civic Council was executed with each of the 24,000 residents in mind. Campaign volunteers and I connected to over 5000 homes with only flyers in our hands, issues in our heads, and drive to connect with the community in our hearts. My campaign for Civic Council cost under $1000. The money was spent only on flyers and targeted online advertisements. With the media coverage of my campaign, I did not deem it necessary to purchase advertisements to earn the support – and ultimately the votes – of the community.“
Traut was the top vote getter in the election, receiving a little over 21% of the vote. You can see the results here.
Traut was unanimously elected as the Treasurer for the Council. He says that he “shares a vested interest in the long-term success of his community by focusing on their schools and recreation assets to attract and retain current residents. Every community has issues. The key is how we work to solve them. I campaigned with the mission to champion projects that strengthen our schools, safety, and improve quality of life, including our local economy, and businesses by bringing innovative ideas.”
The election of Connor Traut shows the growing youth involvement in Orange County politics. It is inspiring to see such a young politician elected into office, and we are all excited to see what the future will hold for this young Orange County Democrat.
UPDATE: As he is a student at Chapman University, Connor has recently moved to Anaheim. He still maintains his position on the Ladera Ranch Civic Council. I asked Connor to explain for our readers how he is able to do that and what his intentions for the future are.
“In Ladera Ranch, all governing boards adopted a universal policy on elections that states that in order to be elected, the candidate must live within Ladera Ranch at least 6 months prior to election. Councilmembers are not required to step down from their position if they move, only not permitted to seek re-election. If a candidate is elected then moves out of Ladera Ranch, the Council can vote-but is not required to vote- as to whether the Councilmember can serve the remainder of their elected term or if they must vacate their seat for an opening during the midterm elections. I have recently moved to Anaheim and have decided to serve the remainder of my term until September 2014, unless a conflict of interest arises in Anaheim. The Council voted unanimously for me to serve the remainder of my term in Ladera Ranch. I asked the Council to vote on the issue because I wanted the public to be fully aware of the situation.” Connor added that to his knowledge, “there have been no negative public comments as result of the decision.”