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Fels Center of Government student David Reed is wasting no time in taking what he has learned here at Penn and applying it to the real political world.

Reed, who will be graduating with his Masters of Government Administration this December, plans to run as a Republican in the May primaries for state representative in the 62nd legislative district, a district in western Pennsylvania that encompasses his hometown of Homer City.

Reed has been overwhelmed by support from community, friends and family, but at the relatively young age of 26, his family wonders if maybe he's starting his political career a little too early.

"At times they wonder if maybe it's the best route right now, if maybe I should find a job first, or at least go on some job interviews. But I just tell my mom, 'I am going on a job interview, it's just in front of 60,000 people and not one,'" Reed said.

Reed's classmates and professors at Fels have been helpful in preparing him for his campaign. He is the president of the Fels Student Advisory Board, and said he receives tremendous support from other students and staff.

John Mulhern, director of the executive MGA program at Fels, interviewed Reed when he first applied to Fels, and has counseled him as he begins the long campaign road.

"It's important to understand that we do prepare young people for careers in a political environment here," Mulhern said. "And with that in mind, [Reed] is probably years ahead of his age in preparation."

Mulhern has no worries about Reed's youth or inexperience.

"I think he is certainly very mature for his age, he's very sophisticated," he said. "It's not at all inappropriate that he's running at this point in his life."

"I would assist any of our students in any way that I could if they were running for office," Mulhern said. "We work very closely with students over here."

Others, like Reed's future opponent if he wins the primaries, are not so sure that youth is a great advantage to Reed.

Rep. Sara Steelman, a Democrat, is the current representative in the Pennsylvania House for the 62nd legislative district, and has been since 1991. She said Reed, who was planning to run as a Democrat at the time, called her over the summer to let her know he would be running against her.

"He wanted to know if I was thinking about retiring, and I said that unfortunately, down here, seniority counts," Steelman said.

"The inference I draw from that is that he's got a lot of ambition but he doesn't necessarily have much commitment," she added.

Steelman said that while it may be easy for an elected official to be ousted if they're not paying attention to their constituents, she feels she has been doing just that.

"Some of the intellectual qualities David would bring to the table against a different kind of opponent aren't going to work so well against me," she said. "People like youth and energy, but they also like experience and energy."

Nonetheless, Steelman can still see promise in Reed for the future.

"I think he has potential at some point to do some very good things, but he he hasn't done a whole lot. And when I was a graduate student, if someone had asked me to run for state office, I would have cracked up," Steelman said.

Reed has three main platforms for his campaign, and all underscore the important roles community and family play in his life.

Reed's hometown was once a booming mining community, but as the mines have closed, residents there are having trouble getting work in the area, and finding a solution to that problem is a big part of Reed's campaign.

With more jobs in place, Reed hopes families will be able to stay together and thrive in the community.

"One of the most important things I've found in my community that people are worried about is, as they grow older, if they're going to be able to walk across the block, or drive down the street and see their children, and see their grandchildren, to see the people they care about," he said.

Besides economic growth in the 62nd district, he also wants to focus on problems with drug and alcohol abuse and getting more leadership out of elected officials.

Reed wants to be an elected official who does more than just represent the district in Harrisburg -- he wants to be a real leader. And his philosophy has lead him to travel all over the district, going door-to-door and talking with people about their concerns.

"More or less, I'm there asking what's important to them, what are they concerned about, what do I need to be focusing on, and they're just absolutely thrilled that somebody has come to their door and is willing to spend the time to talk to them," Reed said of his visits.

But whatever the outcome of the primaries, Reed still feels it's essential that young people start getting involved in politics.

"I've always wanted to run for office. I wasn't exactly sure what office early on, but a lot of it comes back to the way I was raised," Reed said. "My family and my friends, my community gave me a great opportunity... so now I want to go back and make sure everybody else has the same opportunities."

"A lot of young people shy away from politics and from public service because there's a lot of money to be made out there with a college degree," he said. "But I would encourage more young people to get involved because I have found that people love it when young people get involved in the future of their communities, and in their own futures as well."

Reed admits he really can't see himself in a job in fields other than public service.

"I can't think of a better job," he said. "You get to wake up every morning and you know you're going to meet new people, you're going to face new challenges, but no matter what you only have one goal, and that's to help people, to help the people that you care about."

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