Reilly Hopkins has never needed a reason to get involved in his community. The twenty-year-old secondary education major and Clermont Northeastern golf coach could soon be adding Blanchester Village Councilmember to his resumé, assuming the upcoming November election swings in his favor.
“I don’t feel there has to be a rhyme or a reason,” he said in an interview with The Lantern. “If I see there is a cause or a need in my community, then I go to it.”
It was this passion for his community that spurred him on to start attending Blanchester School Board meetings during his senior year of high school. His original intention was to run for Blanchester School Board, but the crowded candidate pool gave him pause. “It’s proven that when you get a very crowded election . . . that the wrong people get in,” he said, “and the right people who should get in kinda lose credibility.”
Since he’s also been attending Village Council meetings for a year and observing strategies he did not agree with, he decided to join that race as well. From various conversations with different people around the town, he decided that he could give a much-needed voice to those who felt underrepresented. “Everybody wants to speak but nobody wants to act . . . [and]I have never been one to sit silent.”
It would be easy to look at Reilly’s young age and find his run for Village Council as overly-ambitious, or naive even. It would be easy to chalk his run up to him being an overzealous kid who does not understand the complicated world of small-town politics. It would be easy, if it was not for Reilly himself; his belief in himself is contagious, and his love for his town is charming and genuine. To him, age is nothing but a number.
He has many friends in their 40s and 50s. He goes to sporting events with them, and goes over to their houses and discusses issues with them; they feel they can come to him with anything and know that it will stay just between them. Still, he’s not afraid to set them straight about the age issue: “[Baby Boomers] think the reason why they know more than Millennials do is because of their age,” he said. “That doesn’t mean anything to me.”
Regardless of age, a candidate needs to have concrete plans about how to make Blanchester a better place to have a chance of getting elected. Reilly believes he knows exactly what is wrong with Blanchester and how to fix it. “The town has done some great things, but the town has done some questionable things,” he said. “There are obstacles that have to be tackled . . . The biggest thing is prioritizing; I feel like our prioritizing hasn’t happened. We’ve kinda gotten away from the hometown feel. And in a small town that’s considered a village, that’s what you have to have.”
Reilly’s political aspirations do not stop at Village Council; he hopes to climb the ladder and one day become an Ohio senator. But, this desire is not borne out of a hope for personal gain or glory; he sincerely wants the best for his community and his state. Concerning his motives for getting involved in the race, Reilly remarked that “the base of everything is just doing your due diligence and serving the public, and that’s entirely what this is all about. Not doing it for the benefits, not doing it for what can benefit me or benefit my family; it’s about the community as a whole.”
He hopes to never have to leave Blanchester, and to put in many years there as an educator. He prides himself on being approachable; he loves getting to know people and developing real friendships with them. This satisfaction he derives from personal relationships is what he has loved most about his time at UC Clermont. As he reflected on his time on campus, he said, “There’s a lot of great people [at Clermont]. . . It’s such a family atmosphere here because you get the one-on-one interaction.”
In many ways, Reilly embodies what UC Clermont is all about: a love for education, personal interaction, and getting involved in one’s community. One day, he may very well take these attributes all the way to the state capital. But for now, he’s just hoping to offer all he has to the village he has lived in his entire life. If the people of Blanchester are wise, they will take him up on that offer.