The spectacle of national politics tends to distract from what's happening closer to home, but often the real change takes place at the state and local level. Just ask 21-year-old Yvonne Dean-Bailey, who was the youngest Republican woman to be elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives, where she also serves as vice chairman of the Election Law Committee.
Dean-Bailey's interest in politics was piqued in 2014, when she interned in Washington, D.C., for Kelly Ayotte, then a senator from New Hampshire. The position taught Dean-Bailey the basics of politics—and offered her a window into a system that she believes needs improvement.
"I found a new love for my state and our country and I found that the true duty of a member of any legislative body is to be a voice for their constituency," Dean-Bailey says. "I also saw firsthand how bloated and disjointed our federal government had become. I didn't think I would ever run for office—but I knew I was not happy with the quickly growing and oppressive government, and I felt the urge to get further involved."
Since New Hampshire State House members serve part-time, most have a day job as well. Dean-Bailey works for a company that carries out direct-marketing campaigns for candidates, non-profits, and small businesses. Dean-Bailey sees the opportunity to serve her state as an immense opportunity and responsibility—one in which her youthful and energetic mind help her serve her constituency, which comprises four small towns in the southern part of the state.
"I love my state and I want preserve the best parts about it: our natural beauty, economic and social freedom, and the sense of community," Dean Bailey says. "We have a great opportunity to be an economic engine in the Northeast while preserving these values, [but] young people leave our state in droves due to lack of high-skilled jobs and affordable housing. I hope to be able to work to find a balance between creating an innovative and prosperous economy while preserving what makes us great and unique."
Looking ahead at her career at such a young age, it's understandable that Dean-Bailey doesn't yet have any set plans. Though she has a self-described "see where the wind takes me" attitude, and a vague goal to work on election law, the biggest indicator of her future success may well be her ability to knock on doors and ask for what she wants—something she's handily mastered at the age of 21.
"It's often joked that I knock on too many doors, but I kid you not, I have met some of my greatest friends during the campaign season by knocking on their door to introduce myself and ask for their vote," Dean-Bailey says. "You have to ask for things. Sitting around and waiting for a call or an offer only yields wasted time."
Explore the complete list of this year's 30 top thinkers under 30 here.