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Homegrown Politician

Running for public office is not for the faint of heart of any age.

But what if you’re 21 years old, and a full-time, dean’s-list student like Jenna Wadsworth? The NC State junior is a newly elected district supervisor for the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Wadsworth, a political science/women’s and gender studies major, was the top vote-getter in a three-way race, capturing support from 41 percent or 112,231 voters.

Wadsworth is the youngest elected official currently serving in North Carolina and—as far as she’s been able to determine—the youngest woman elected in the state.

She’s both idealistic and practical about what she’s getting into.

“Being in college and being a public servant—neither is an easy task,” she said. “I’m used to a rigorous academic environment, and I have been active in politics since before I could vote.”

portrait of Jenna Wadsworth

During her time at NC State, Wadsworth has been active with various environmental groups and participating in grassroots efforts to lobby for bills addressing local environmental issues.

Taking a Stand

Wadsworth wants to focus on preserving family farms, like the one she grew up on, and promoting locally grown products as a way of sustaining jobs in the county.

“I look forward to doing my part to clean up Falls Lake and Wake County’s other water sources, while working to find ways to conserve such resources and reduce our use of them.”

She outlined her positions in detail in a pre-election candidate questionnaire for the Triangle-based Independent Weekly.

Although she’s one-third as old as some fellow board members, Wadsworth is confident she is up to the task.

“Young people have a lot to offer,” she said. “We have different ways of thinking. We bring a different perspective. We are passionate and have a lot of energy to effect change.”

Ready to Serve

Wadsworth credits mentors in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences with helping prepare her for public office, particularly philosophy professor Chris Pierce. She says the coursework has helped hone her communications skills.

“In CHASS, we are encouraged to learn and to explore diverse viewpoints, not just to absorb material. My professors have been great about helping me relate what I’m studying to real-world contexts.”

Wadsworth created an independent study in women and gender studies this semester, organizing her nonpartisan campaign.

“So few women run for public office,” she said. “It wasn’t just my age that could have caused some to dismiss my candidacy.

Right now, the supervisor-elect is fielding interviews with media and attending meetings for the conservation board, while preparing for end-of-semester exams.

Responses (3 Comments)

  • Jenna is a credit to her University, her parents, and all who supported her candidacy for office. She not only brought attention to herself, but her enthusiasm and positive attitude made her a focus for what is right about public service in general.

    This is critical at a time when the public is jaded about politics and government.

    I hope the Wolfpack community will give her the credit she rightly deserves for addressing the issues of preserving water at Falls Lake and preserving family farms.

    Good luck, Jenna, and I will be watching you now and in the future.

  • David Collins

    When I voted for Jenna Wadsworth for district supervisor of Wake County Soil and Water, I felt she was the most qualified for the office. She won me over for her love of farming and passion on the issues facing Wake County. I want to wish Jenna good luck.

  • Deena Murphy

    We were just discussing in our Women and Gender Studies Executive Council meeting yesterday how proud we are of Jenna. Anyone that has had the privilege of teaching Jenna knows what an incredibly strong, articulate, and resourceful woman she is.

    I (and I am sure I can speak for other WGS faculty) congratulate Jenna on combining her academic skills with her passion for activism and social change. Jenna, you are a wonderful example for other students and I am so excited to hear of your ongoing accomplishments.

    Congratulations also to the Wadsworth family. I have had the pleasure of teaching both Wadsworth young women and they are outstanding. A credit to their family and our programs here at NC State.

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