Taylor Clark was 10 years old when a meeting with the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha changed his life.
"Everything that I have, (in being) interested in politics came from the congressman," he said.
He was told to stop down at the office sometime — so he did a few weeks later. In a way, he never left that office. Since that time he's become an fixture during the local and national election races.
He started out making calls from the phone banks and eventually went out in the field canvassing for Democratic candidates like President Barack Obama, Murtha, U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, U.S. Sen. Robert Casey and many state and county level candidates.
Once, when he was 14, a man in Mineral Point waved a gun at him and threatened to send his dog after him while canvassing for Obama.
"I have to admit, I was scared," he said. "I had never experienced anything like that before. The hate, the racism. I just went back to the car and waited for the others to come back."
But that did not stop him. Now, at 18, he is applying to become a committeeman for Westmont.
While he loves politics and government, he is surging toward a political career for different reasons.
"I have a love for this country — almost like a faith in this country that is unshakable. It isn't from politics, it comes from the American spirit," he said.
So, he has immersed himself in the process while his own political views and ideologies continue to develop.
Right now, he sees an America that needs to change. The massive national debt needs to be paid down. Corporations and their monetary influences need to be excised from the campaign trails and halls of power. Term limits need to be enacted and the court system needs reform.
There is also much that is happening in this country that is good right now. During Obama's inauguration, he went to Washington, D.C. for the event.
While there he talked to a woman from Haiti who was also at the event. He asked her why she was there. She told him a simple answer, while holding her arms open to a massive crowd filled with all races of people.
"For this," he remembers her saying.
"It's so easy to be cynical. It's so easy to be doubtful. But then you see what we can overcome as a nation," he said.
The son of Mary and Randy Clark, of Westmont, is working hard for his dream.
He interned for Critz in 2010.
"That was a big influence on me," he said. "That the congressman cares so much his constituency and is still just a regular person, just somebody trying to make the area better."
He was invited to the People to People Conference in 2009 and the National Young Leaders Conference in 2011. In school, the honors student was elected to class vice president and president during his junior year.
He also works part-time at a local sandwich shop. He counts among his hobbies reading and football.
Clark's future will likely be law first, then a run for office. He hasn't chosen between American University in Washington, D.C., or Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. He does know that his majors will be pre-law and political science. Once he obtains his law degree with a focus on constitutional law, he hopes to work as a prosecutor.
He debated about choosing defense law, but couldn't reconcile the idea of backing with all his heart and skill someone who was guilty of a horrible crime.
There is one other thing he knows. Despite a love of the city and meeting people from different backgrounds, he will be coming home for his career.
"I love where I'm from," he said. "I wouldn't feel right if I didn't come back to help the people I've seen suffering here in Johnstown. I want to help this area, these people."
Clark eyes political future
Taylor Clark (Submitted photo)