Jeffrey T. Wood has been involved in politics for eight of his 20 years and is proud of every moment.
"I'm the youngest elected member of the Republican Central Committee," Wood said. "I was on the ballot in November, you know, with President Reagan."
Despite his youth, Wood is already a consummate political animal. He is county Supervisor Deane Dana's most recent appointee to the county Commission on Youth and will meet with that group for the first time tonight.
To this staunch young Republican--a fifth-generation Long Beach resident who likens himself ideologically to the President and conservatives Rep. Jack Kemp (R-New York) and Rep. Daniel Lungren (R-Long Beach)--his age is irrelevant.
"I ran Ronald Reagan's campaign way back when," Wood reminisced recently.
At the time, Wood was 12 years old, and the campaign he ran was confined to his sixth-grade class at Patrick Henry Elementary School near Long Beach's El Dorado Park.
"The reason I first started supporting Ronald Reagan in 1976," Wood said, "was that a couple of things caught my eye--his stand on the Panama Canal, that we shouldn't just give it away; and the 'workfare' concept, that able-bodied welfare recipients should work for the parks and help maintain government facilities."
Now in addition to being a member of the Republican Central Committee from the 54th Assembly District, Wood is a second-term member of the Republican State Committee, a paid assistant to Mayor Ernie Kell and the Long Beach City Council and a member of the city's Year 2000 Task Force on housing and neighborhoods. In 1983, he was a Washington-based intern with the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Public Works and Transportation.
Tradition and Ambition
With his close-cropped brown hair, navy-blue blazer, club-striped tie, argyle socks and penny loafers, Wood seems to be on the cutting edge of American youth in the '80s: conservative, traditional, ambitious.
"I support the philosophy of the (Republican) party," he said. "We need a strong national defense, getting the government off peoples' backs, returning the power to state and local governments.
"It's hard to explain why young people are more conservative (today)," he said. "I'm not wealthy, but I don't like to see the government giving money away. I guess I'm all-around conservative--but open-minded."
Opposes Equal Rights Amendment
Wood is against the equal rights amendment: "I think women's rights are completely protected under the law already." He is also against abortion.
His list of role models is short and to the right: Reagan, Lungren, Assemblyman Patrick Nolan (R-Glendale) and former President Richard Nixon. Of the last, he says, "I like the way he started locally and moved up."
Wood, a junior at Cal State Long Beach majoring in speech, said he spends about 40 hours a month on political endeavors, but "during election year it's more. I think and breathe politics. Some of my friends think I spend too much time with politics, but they're more supportive now."
Managed Assembly Candidates
With pal Randolph Decker, Wood managed Lakewood office manager Janice Lynch's unsuccessful bid for the 54th Assembly District seat in 1982. And in 1984, Wood was campaign manager for Decker, a 21-year-old Lakewood political consultant and student who also lost his race for the 54th District seat.
In 1986, Wood said, he may run himself.
"He's real determined," said his mother, Ann Wood, a bank employee who lives in Long Beach. Until recently, Wood lived with his mother; he now shares a Long Beach apartment with his 23-year-old brother, Michael.
"When Jeff's made up his mind, he keeps it channeled in the way he wants to go. He was always a good student, but this (activism) is nothing you'd think your own son would do," Ann Wood said, adding that his conservatism is a surprise. She is a registered Republican; his grandmother and stepfather are Democrats. No one in the family, she said, is politically active.
'Typical' College Student
Although Wood contends he is "a typical college student" who likes sailing and parties, his post-college plans are not quite typical.
"I should graduate in 1986," he said. "If I run for City Council in two years, I'll only be 23. At my age, I can live on just what they make (about $12,000 annually) and be a full-time councilman. But I can probably run for City Council now. I know the process, the district, the issues.
"Ernie Kell's term is up in '86," he said, pausing, thinking hard. "I wouldn't run against him, though. Ernie is well-liked in the district and does the job we elected him to do. How can you run against someone like that?"
Still, with his compressed political experience, Wood believes he would make a "great" public servant.
"There are some people who are elected and automatically have their eye on something else," he said.
"I won't be like that. I'll run. I'll serve," he said, brightening. "And then maybe . . . "