Macon County native Justin Conley was elected recently to the top spot in the state’s Young Democrat organization.
“It was a bit overwhelming,” Conley said of being elected to president of the North Carolina Young Democrat Organization. “It’s been a long road to get here. Over the last few years I have increasingly been involved statewide and nationally as the National Committeeman of YDNC. It’s given me the opportunity to travel across our country and from Murphy to Manteo, to advocate for a better vision for North Carolina and work with other young leaders across the nation. The fact that a guy who grew up on a dirt road here in the mountains of Macon County has the opportunity to lead YDNC is really exciting.”
As president, Conley said it is his main responsibility to lead the Democratic youth movement in North Carolina and work to advance the party’s platform. “The Young Democrats provides an outlet for young people who want to get involved in politics and advocate for what they believe, it’s my job to help facilitate that by working through our chapters across the state,” he said.
North Carolina’s Young Democrat organization is one of many throughout the country focused on sparking interest from members of the younger generation to become involved in their communities as well as in politics. Founded in 1928 by Tyre Taylor, The Young Democrats of North Carolina (YDNC) is the oldest Young Democrats chapter in America and the founding chapter of Young Democrats of America. The vision of the Young Democrats of North Carolina is to make North Carolina a better place by promoting its issues, its young people, and the spirit of the Democratic Party.
With 503 miles from the two furthest points of North Carolina, Conley will be charged with the task of connecting the state’s youth and bringing them together. The YDNC hasn’t had a president from WNC in recent memory, noted Conley, and never one from this far west. “There have been several state leaders who’ve served in this role such as Gov. Terry Sanford, Gov. Jim Hunt, and Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin. It's very humbling,” said Conley.
With Conley being the YDNC’s first president reigning from Western North Carolina, he hopes to bring a rural voice to the state office. “I have definitely brought a different perspective to the table and one I believe will help our message,” said Conley.
Conley credits growing up in Macon County for helping him be able to reach out to different people across the state.
“Growing up in Macon County gives one the opportunity to see the best in people,” said Conley. “Consistently I saw our community come together to help those dealing with unforeseen circumstances or tragedy. Macon County had a history of investing in its young people and their future. We seemed to always put politics aside when problems arose here, but I feel that lately our community hasn’t escaped the extremism in Raleigh or Washington. Just saying ‘no’ to everything isn't leading or putting Macon County first. I’m still hopeful that commonsense will make its way back to our local governance.”
With a full run in office ahead of him, Conley plans to direct his focus on chapters across the state. “Working with our chapters is what I am most looking forward to,” said Conley. “We have some of the most talented people across North Carolina willing to commit their time and efforts for this organization. It’s so inspiring to work with such a group of leaders. Everyone I’ve spoken with realizes North Carolina is a crossroads and the decisions we make, the priorities we establish, and the work we do will determine the direction and ultimately the future of our state. Study after study shows that young people are trending to the Democratic Party or with policies that align with ours: it’s really just a matter of time.
“I’ve never been more hopeful about the future of North Carolina and I look forward to serving,” he concluded.