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Three years ago, Clint Wright was juggling classes and sports at South Western High School. In a few weeks, the 21-year-old will help set policy for the entire district and have a hand on its $67 million purse strings.

Wright, a 2015 graduate of South Western High School, was elected to the South Western school board in the municipal election held Tuesday, Nov. 7.

“This victory is for everyone that has ever walked through the doors of South Western, whether as a student, athlete, employee and all of our residents,” he said in a message to supporters on Facebook.

When reached by telephone Wednesday, Nov. 8, Wright said he wanted to represent the residents and taxpayers of the district he has called home all his life.

He said he started gathering signatures in February to get on the ballot for the primary election.

Path to victory: Although many candidates cross-file to increase their chances of securing a spot in the general election ballot, Wright decided not to, which likely led to his last-place finish in the general election on Nov. 7.

“I did it out of principle,” the Republican said. “I didn’t want to say something that I’m really not. I’m Clint Wright, and I want to be who I say I am.”

Before the primary in May, it looked like a tough battle for Wright —  the four seats up for election all had incumbent board members intending to seek reelection.

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Once primary results poured in, however, South Western school board member Danielle Paul failed to secure a spot on the Republican side during the primary but made the Democratic ballot, while Wright got the most votes in the Republican primary.

In August, Paul withdrew her candidacy on the Democratic side, leaving an uncontested vacancy on the board.

Wright said he never lost hope, even when he was up against all incumbents.

“I entered this race with the intention to win, and that’s exactly what we did,” he said.

He attributed to his win to a grassroots campaign in which he and his friend made phone calls, knocked on “a great many doors” for months, and heard from residents, students and staff on issues surrounding education.

Beliefs: In a Facebook post on Election Day, Wright told his supporters it was “time to usher in a new era at South Western, with a representative that brings a fresh set of ideas, stands for principles and puts people first.”

There have been recent changes in leadership at the district, including the arrival of a new superintendent and athletic director.

Wright said it is important to complement the changes with a school board member who brings a new perspective to the board, especially one of someone who as recently as 2015 roamed school hallways as a student.

In addition, Wright worked at the district as a maintenance worker over one summer.

Wright said he will serve on the board to represent residents of all political stripes, and one of the biggest gripes he says he hears from people concern property taxes.

“I always hear from residents that property taxes are too high,” he said, and vowed to be a voice for those seeking tax relief.

A constitutional amendment on Tuesday’s ballot gave lawmakers the authority to allow local taxing bodies to exempt the total value of a home from property taxes. The "homestead exemption" currently applies to up to 50 percent of a property's value. 

Over half of South Western’s $67 million budget is funded by local property taxes.

Wright said he voted in favor of the measure on Tuesday.

“It gives local authorities more autonomy,” he said, to figure out new ways of funding their school districts.

Still learning: While Wright will vote on measures that will impact several thousand students, he’s still making the daily commute to a school as a student himself.

Wright is enrolled at McDaniel College, a private liberal arts college in Maryland, where he is a junior studying communications.

“It’s such a broad field,” he said about his major.

“You can get into anything from politics to public relations. The opportunities in that field are limitless.”

Wright was on South Western's wrestling and cross country teams, and he continued wrestling during his freshman and sophomore years at McDaniel.

Wright is also president of a conservative student organization at McDaniel called Young Americans for Liberty, which aims to teach its members about government, individualism and belief in the U.S. constitution.

He said he understands the “big-time commitment” involved with serving on the South Western board, as some combined meetings and executive sessions could last far into the night.

He said his time wrestling has given him a strong work ethic and persistence that he will take with him to South Western’s board room each month.

“I used to practice wrestling for two and a half hours, and then I’d spend hours and hours at the gym afterward,” he said, before reciting a quote from Olympic wrestler Dan Gable.

“Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy,” he said.

Reach education reporter Junior Gonzalez via email at jgonzalez@yorkdispatch.com and on Twitter @EducationYD.

Editor's note: The article previously stated Wright ran cross country in college for two years, but he actually continued wrestling at McDaniel College, not cross country. In addition, although Wright gained the most votes on the Republican side, he received the fewest overall votes in the Nov. 7 general election.

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