WILMINGTON — While his fellow students at Wilmington College were occupied last Tuesday evening studying, watching WC’s soccer match or socializing in the residence halls, freshman Levi Hartschuh spent election night eagerly awaiting the day’s voting results in the Crawford County Courthouse.
The 18-year-old had a vested interest in the contested Wynford Board of Education race — not since it was the first time he could vote — rather, because his name was on the ballot.
Hartschuh of Bucyrus is a 2021 graduate of Wynford High School in his first year at Wilmington College studying agriculture education.
The board of Eeducation race featured six candidates for three open seats and, early that evening, Hartschuh learned he was in fourth place following the counting of absentee and other early voting ballots. He became anxious as precinct after precinct reported.
“I was nervous, pacing back and forth,” he recalled.
Then he learned he went from fourth place with 99 votes to second place with 548 by the time the last precinct was tabulated. “When I saw that, I yelled, ‘Yes!’ I hugged my parents and high-fived my friends who were there.”
With little opportunity for a victory celebration, he had to get back to the College for Wednesday classes. Hartschuh determined he needed to change two classes starting in January to accommodate his upcoming two-and-a-half hour drives for board of education meetings each month.
“Luckily, there were morning classes I could take, so everything worked out,” he added.
Hartschuh’s campaign was the antithesis of high-tech — he didn’t employ pollsters and demographic consultants. In fact, once he noticed no candidates even printed signs, he only used his sign design on social media.
“I just talked to people and it spread by word of mouth,” he said. “My high school did a lot to build and shape me into who I am. The community believes in me that I will do my job to the best of my ability. I felt this was the best way, right now, that I could give back to the community.”
He sees his election as confirmation that a younger person can play a key role in helping to envision and facilitate a bright future for his community.
Hartschuh grew up on a beef cattle farm with a grain producing operation. He immediately knew Wilmington College was the school for him.
“When I toured the campus, I told my parents it felt like home. It’s a college where they get to know you,” he said, noting that his swim team coach, James “Trip’ Breen”, was texting him election night interested in learning how the ballots were coming in. “Trip is very open and personable. he cares about you more than simply as an athlete, but also as an individual. At Wilmington, you’re a person, not a number like you’d be at bigger schools.”
Hartschuh, who specializes in the breaststroke and individual medley, knows that, each third Thursday this winter, he will miss the normal afternoon swimming practice and do the day’s training in the early morning hours. That’s a small sacrifice to make when he sees his election to school board as a first steppingstone in a career in public service.
“In America, if we want to make a difference, I think running for office is important,” he added. “You can’t just sit on the sidelines and complain — you have to act!”