Mr. Loomis takes St. Louis: Freshman talks politics and paging
It was an afterthought, really, that freshman Jimmy Loomis attended the Legacy Luncheon that day. But he rushed over after setting up his dorm and found that the only seat left was the one directly next to Chancellor Mark Wrighton. So, at the end of the meal, after discussing their various interests, Loomis asked to exchange cards. The chancellor had a somewhat puzzled look on his face and said, “Sure. Wow…I’ve never had a student give me a card before.” What Loomis really didn’t bargain for was the chancellor mentioning the incident before the entire class of 2017 that night at Convocation, but Loomis added with a chuckle that it certainly makes for a good story.
But you might ask why this 18-year-old has his own business card. The answer is equal parts simple and surprising: he is a Democratic Township committeeman for Clayton, Mo. He is one of two representatives from Clayton and serves on the St. Louis County Democratic Central Committee, which has 56 total members, two from every township in the county. Serving roughly 30,000 constituents, Loomis’ duties consist mostly of helping to fund and endorse Democratic candidates running in the area. He also describes himself as a “go-to person” for anything residents of Clayton might need from the Democratic Party, regardless of their political affiliation.
Months ago, he began to think about the position as something he might pursue in 2016, the next time a seat was likely to open up. But in August 2012, a seat unexpectedly became available, and as Loomis’ 18th birthday approached in March 2013, the seat remained open.
“I spoke with members of the party and leaders in the community to get their approval in advance before I was able to run. Once I got the OK, we worked it out,” Loomis explained.
However, it wasn’t the typical campaign process that you might be imagining, complete with banners, buttons and stump speeches. Instead, he ran unopposed.
“Leaders of the community did put their backing behind me, and I think that really deterred any serious opposition,” Loomis said.
Thus, just two weeks after he became a legal adult, he won the election, making him the youngest public official in St. Louis history.
The next issue on his agenda was where he might attend college.
“[Being local] was a major, major factor in coming to Wash. U. It gave me the ability to continue to serve out my term and build connections and networks within the St. Louis community so I can advance to higher office,” Loomis said.
And though he does have these serious responsibilities, for Loomis, academics still come first.
“It’s certainly a tough balancing act that I had to work on…and I’ve had to put some of my responsibilities on the back burner until I’ve fully transitioned,” Loomis said.
Now that he is on campus, he hopes to pursue his love of politics both inside and outside the classroom.
“I’m thinking about [majoring in] political science, if that’s any big surprise. It’s not concretely applicable to my work in government, but I hope it will give me the background in understanding the fundamental processes of governments, how it really works and how it can be made better,” Loomis said.
On Sept. 10, Loomis gained his second office when he was elected as freshman representative to the Executive Board of College Democrats.
“I really want to take the resources the township has to offer and the manpower the University has to offer and combine them to strengthen the basic structure of both,” said Loomis. “I think it would be mutually beneficial, and I think I’m in a unique position to help out with that.”
Lest you think his public service ends there, Loomis has a second business card at the ready in his pocket, one that reads “Loomis Notary Services, L.L.C.” Though he is not sure why he decided to get a notary commission in the first place, he’s not complaining now. Through his work, Loomis estimates that he makes about $200 of what he describes as “easy money” per month. His peers have reacted to his unique side job with surprise and fascination.
“I was definitely surprised. I just picture a notary as some older, professional business person,” freshman Kelsey Bria, who lives on the first floor of Eliot A House, Loomis’ floor, said.
When Loomis pulled out his notary supplies in the common room to certify his Washington University Student Associate’s documents, sophomore Mitra Maz was likewise shocked.
“I found it really interesting. It’s one thing to get documents notarized by a crusty adult, but to see a peer do the same is a totally different experience,” Maz said. “It just speaks to the diversity in skill sets and interests in Wash. U. students.”
But out of all the unique experiences in which he’s had the chance to partake, from being named the 2013 Young Democrat of the Year at the Missouri Democrats’ annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner to simply meeting members of his diverse constituency, Loomis was most enthralled by his work as a United States Senate page.
As one of 30 pages from the whole country, Loomis got to serve Claire McCaskill, the U.S. senator for Missouri, during the summer of 2012. While his days mostly consisted of fetching water or ferrying copies about, he also got the chance of a lifetime, as only pages and senators are allowed on the Senate floor.
“It was just awe-inspiring to watch debates take place on the Senate floor and have a senator come up to you and start talking—Sen. [John] McCain or Sen. [John] Kerry. You see them on TV, and you never imagine what they’re like as people, and suddenly they’re right there in front of you. It’s just an amazing experience,” Loomis said.
Next on his list of goals for the future is re-election in his current position as local committeeman come 2016. After that, he has his eye on a seat in the Missouri State House of Representatives, either representing Creve Coeur or University City, both of which will have available seats during the 2020 election. But for now, he’s focusing on balancing his studies with his various duties.
“Just opening up to opportunities like [these] is something I’m really grateful for,” Loomis said.