Young people are stepping up.
They are leading at the country, state, city or township levels. They are inspired by professors, family members or their own strong ideology.
State Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard, was 26 when she first ran for Congress, winning the primary in 2004.
"I've always been someone who has really believed that public policy is one of the best tools we have available to improve our community," she said Thursday in a phone interview.
Cafaro, who said she was blessed to have a strong education and an early interest in history and current events, was first inspired by her grandfather. At the age of 8 or 9, Cafaro was writing a report on the Battle of the Bulge - she was told by her mother's father to put the encyclopedia away, because "I was there."
"When you experience things at a personal level, in my view, you have to stand up and act," she said.
The same grandfather had Alzheimer's disease for eight years, which Cafaro said corresponded with the time she was developing an interest in politics. Also around that time came the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003.
Since then, Cafaro took an interest in health care and the needs of older adults. At 32, she also is the Ohio Senate Minority Leader.
She said as a younger person and as someone who had not held office before, she was there eight days a week learning what she needed to know.
"Public service is all-encompassing, as a legislator and working directly with individuals to meet their needs. To me, you want to make sure you are as knowledgeable as possible," she said. "I worked really hard my first year to become acclimated to state policies as fast possible."
At 29, Matthew Vansuch recently became a Howland Township trustee.
Vansuch, an attorney who is married and has a child on the way, said he met with some skepticism at first as he went from door-to-door.
"Once I was able to talk to people and see that they could engage in 'adult conversation' and I wasn't one of those 'young whippersnappers,' people respected that," he said.
Vansuch said he tried to make it an issue-based campaign, one that showed his heart was in in it for the right reasons, and that it wasn't for personal gain. He has an interest in economic development, bringing jobs and businesses to the area.
"If there's going to be an area for our generation to come back to, we have to take up the bootstraps and get it done," he said. "We are in a transformative time. I would rather be in that fight with the gloves on than watch somebody fight on my behalf."
Vansuch took the place of a trustee who was born in 1925, and he said that although the township was served well, it was time for a fresh approach to doing things.
"When I look at our area and see how it's changed in the past 10 years and how it's changing now, there isn't a better time for our generation to get involved," he said.
Vansuch says he and his family are in this for the long haul, and he encourages other young people to get involved.
"We have a lot of older politicians and government officials in the county. If all that experience leaves at one time then you're left with new people coming in, and there's no smooth transition.
"I don't plan on coming in and disrupting the apple cart - I plan to learn from them but also bring some new ideas," he said.
Ed Stredney was 23 when he was campaigning, and is now in his third term as 3rd Ward councilman for the city of Niles.
At the time, he said he was in the process of getting married and buying a house, and he wanted to help build the community and be a community leader.
Stredney also went door to door, where he met with warm reception.
"I think they liked the energetic youth," he said.
Stredney has focused on blighted housing and, of course, jobs.
"Everybody's top priority in the Mahoning Valley should be jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs," said Stredney, who is an assistant manager at Sears Holding / Kmart.
He said his first term was very educational and that other members of council have been very good mentors, also pointing out that they just passed a $78 million budget.
In addition, Stredney is seeking the Democratic nomination for state representative of the 65th District, which is being vacated by Sandra Stabile Harwood.
Roak Zeller is president of the Trumbull-Portage County Young Republicans. He is running for the 68th District, which runs up to the Trumbull County line.
"I am 38, and the Young Republicans are for folks who are in their 20s and 30s," he said.
Zeller is most concerned with Ohio's high unemployment rate.
"We definitely need some reform because the whole reason the state unemployment has doubled to over 11 percent under Strickland is because I believe it is a hostile business environment," he said.
That environment, he said, is caused by the tax burden on employers, and he'd like to see the state change to rates that are competitive with its neighbors.
Zeller, who is a lead in Rubbermaid's warehouse in Mogadore and also works for Warren-based Leeda Northeast, said he became involved with the "Y.R.s" during the race for 11th District Court of Appeals in 2002. He said his group gets involved with such multi-district races - another example is the 7th State School Board.
"We try to coordinate with others for volunteer work," he said.
Zeller recommends that young people read more than one source to become informed.
"I'm very confident of my idealogy, so I tell people read more," he said. "I read left- and right-wing, and it helps you sharpen your argument because it helps you understand where they're coming from."
Zeller said the national Young Republicans were formed more than 70 years ago in Cleveland, and the Columbus chapter is even older. He pointed out that other younger people serving are Josh Mandell, a representative for the 17th Ohio House District who is now running for state treasurer, and Lisa Stickan, a new councilwoman in Highland Heights who held a gala for the 70th anniversary of the Young Republicans.
"It's the oldest politcal youth movement in the U.S., and it all started here in Ohio," he said.
Brian Kren, now 30, was 19 years old during the election in 1999 and turned 20 before taking office. He served one term and started another as Girard 3rd Ward councilman, and then left to go to law school.
Upon returning, he ran successfully for at-large councilman.
Kren, along with Vansuch, graduated from Youngstown State University in political science, and he said the two young men along with Tara Keating, who is new to the Howland Board of Education, graduated from law school in the same class.
Kren's main inspiration to run for local office came from Dr. William Binning, now professor and chair emeritus of the politicial science department at YSU.
"One day at YSU, Dr. Binning asked how many people were regitsered to vote - most but not all raised their hands," Kren remembered. "Then he asked who has run for office, and no one raised their hand. He challenged us to participate.
"It's a testament to Dr. Binning's office that a couple students were inspired to be involved in local government."
In that first race, after going door-to-door in the ward, Kren defeated an incumbent and three other challengers.
He had a small budget, help from friends and family, T-shirts and homemade flyers - a grassroots campaign.
"A lot of people when I went door to door laughed and asked if my dad was running or if I was campaigning for somebody else," he said.
Once elected, Kren said Charlie Lamancusa gave him a lot of encouragement. At the time, Lamincuzza was the eldest council member and Kren the youngest.
Since those first days, Kren said his focus has remained on zoning and economic development. He has married and has a daughter. He said it does take a lot of time and commitment to be a public servant, but it's important to give in some small way.
"I think the more younger people we get involved, they will play a huge part in how fast the Valley starts turning around," he said, citing the recent deal with V&M Steel as an example. "In order to adapt to our times, we need to think out of the box a little bit and not be entrenched in our old-time politics."
Cafaro said she encourages everyone, regardless of age, to get involved, especially if they are not already involved in politics.
"All of those life experiences make people better lawmakers because they understand the impact of the choices they make on real people," she said.