Eighteen-year-old Rhea County resident Bailey Hufstetler became the youngest person in Tennessee to hold political office after he was sworn in this month as a Spring City commissioner.
The Bryan College freshman defeated incumbent Jody Baur in August, just months after graduating from Rhea County High School in May.
"I just really wanted to make a difference," Hufstetler said this week. He is the only person in his family involved in politics.
As city commissioner, his duties will include meeting monthly to hear citizen complaints and voting on issues involving city budgets and infrastructure for the town of nearly 2,000 people.
While in office, Hufstetler said, he wants to improve communication between city management and citizens, as well as improve road and water quality and make sure the commission spends city money wisely.
And he wants to encourage more young people to get involved with the community.
Hufstetler said some adults asked him what he would do if elected, but after they learned of his history in the community, many people seemed more at ease.
He volunteers at the Spring City Chamber of Commerce, Spring City Care and Rehab, and the Tennessee Valley Theater. He started a nonprofit organization for child abuse prevention called Heroes and Angels. And Hufstetler volunteers with the Rhea County Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
"I feel like everybody in the community matters, and I just want to be able to impact the community in a positive way," he said. "My heart has always been into pursuing the community and to better the community."
Hufstetler, whose mother died in 2012, points to his grandfather, the late Patrick Dawson, as being his role model because of the way he demonstrated his faith in God. No matter what trials his grandfather endured, he always believed God had a plan, Hufstetler said.
Bryan College cheer team coach Janice Perron ran behind Hufstetler flashing rabbit ears as he posed for pictures in the cafeteria Wednesday.
"He's great," she said. "Always seems on top of things. Always willing to go the extra mile."
Diana Holcomb, campus visit coordinator and Hufstetler's supervisor in that office, said the teen loves Spring City and Rhea County.
"He is probably the most involved young man in this community that I've ever known," she said.
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at email@example.com or 423-757-6431.