Early taste of politics has turned into a career

September 25, 2011
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Sam Moore was elected chairman of the Kent County Republican Committee in December — and at age 29, likely is one of the youngest to achieve that post. But don’t let his age deceive you: He is far from being a newcomer to politics.

Sixteen years ago, when he was 13, he managed his mom’s inaugural campaign for county clerk and register of deeds in Crawford County. Sandra Moore still holds that position.

“That was when I got bitten by the political bug. It just sparked an interest in politics. In 2000, I moved to Grand Rapids to attend Grand Valley State University as a political science major and from there it just kind of took off,” he said.

Moore didn’t come into the party’s chairmanship without some previous experience. “I had worked from 2007 through 2009 as the executive director. Now (being chairman) is my full-time volunteer job,” he said, laughing. “I know I’m the first staff member of the organization to become the party chairman.”

Sam Moore

Organization: Kent County Republican Committee
Title: Chairman
Age: 29
Birthplace: Grayling
Residence: Grand Rapids
Family: Single
Biggest Career Break: Being elected to the Frederic Township Board, which gave him valuable insight into how local government officials operate and how taxing a position it can be at times.

Because he had spent time as executive director for the GOP, Moore was pretty certain he had a good handle on what his new position would entail. But his new post didn’t turn out to be quite what he had expected.

“It’s been a lot more work than I thought. Having been on the staff side, I thought I knew what the chair does because I assisted them for two-and-a-half years. But you don’t know about all the phone calls — at home, behind the scenes and not at the office — that they were taking on a consistent basis,” he said.

A key moment in his young career came when he was elected to the Frederic Township Board, a community of roughly 1,400 in Crawford County that bills itself as an outdoorsman’s paradise situated between the AuSable and Manistee rivers.

“It gave me deeper appreciation for what elected officials do and what they go through. … I’ve actually served for four years as an elected official and I was the liaison from the township board on the planning commission, and those positions aren’t always easy. We did an entire rewrite of all our zoning regulations,” he said. “I guess when I look back on that, it’s allowed me to relate to the work (public officials) do day in and day out. And it’s made my job and my role here as party chairman a lot easier, just having that knowledge and background.”

In 2000, Moore worked for George W. Bush’s campaign. Then he headed north to work for Tony Stamas, a state representative from Midland who won a state Senate seat in 2002. He then served on Stamas’ Lansing staff for a few years while he was working toward his degree at GVSU, restarting the school’s GOP party, chairing the statewide college Republican group, and serving on the national board. Moore also held a public-policy position at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce for a few years.

“I’ve been around the block a few times,” he said.

Today, Moore earns his living as deputy chairman of the state Republican Party, a paid position that allows him to oversee the West Michigan region and have his voluntary post with Kent GOP.

“They are really two different entities. For the most part, the state party is the one that’s going to raise the bulk of the money to pay for the TV ads and some other stuff, and it sets the direction and the tone for what we need to accomplish on the political side. But then it’s up to the county parties to actually implement the plan,” he said.

“I think it’s been extraordinarily helpful to be on the ground in Lansing and help advise and work on the process of the actual programs. … I’m able to give a lot of input on how I think things should work, so when we do get to the implementation phase and we’re working with county parties, we’ve already talked through a lot of the problems and the logistical challenges.”

Moore said what he likes best about being GOP chair is it gives him an opportunity to work with a lot of people on a common goal, which is to elect limited-government, personal-responsibility candidates to office. He said he enjoys being somewhat out of the spotlight, building a plan that will deliver the number of votes necessary to meet the goal.

“It’s interesting that you’re involved in the presidential race and the U.S. Senate, down to the county commission, in all areas of government and at all levels of government.”

Moore has a staff of three full-timers to help him — Justin Swan, Kristen Derridinger and Colin Vis — and said he counts on them tremendously. He added that they have done a number of cool things in the short time they’ve been together. The biggest achievement was putting together the party’s new headquarters, which opened a few months ago at 725 Lake Michigan Drive NW.

“We raised and paid for all of the renovations to the building that we own just two-and-a-half blocks from Grand Valley. It’s an emerging neighborhood with students and a lot of excitement over here on the West Side, but it was a lot of work to raise a couple hundred thousand dollars that we needed to renovate and to pay for the building.”

Moore pointed out the Kent GOP also is becoming more active outside of politics. For instance, he registered the party’s new headquarters as an ArtPrize venue and held a barbeque there for the neighbors. “It’s been terrific so far. I really like it,” he said.

Moore, who was born and raised in Grayling, isn’t married and said he enjoys being single. “I always tell everyone I first set kind of a target of, by the time I’m 30, that is when I’ve got to settle down. And now that I’m knocking on that door, we’re extending that deadline. Now I’m thinking that 35 or 40 sound awfully nice,” he said, smiling.

Moore had been fairly active in the community, but since he has taken on the local GOP’s leadership role, those activities have been minimal. “I’ve set aside pretty much everything else and am focusing 100 percent of my time on this for right now.”

When he has some spare time, he likes to travel and sail with friends.

Moore said he chose the Republican Party because of his family background and because he embraces the GOP philosophy of taking personal responsibility. “That’s something that is very big with me,” he said.

Although it might come as a surprise considering his passion for politics, he doesn’t plan to run for office again — at least, not anytime soon.

“I’m a big believer in, once you’ve had your time and you’ve been able to do something, let somebody else get involved. I’m not one that likes to hold a position forever. I don’t need a title to have an impact or to be involved. I’ve been asked the last several months if I’ll stay as party chairman for another term. I’ve said I don’t know how much clearer I can make it, because I’ve had the plaque printed with ‘2012’ on it,” he said.

“So through December of 2012, we’re really going to be focused on implementing a plan that allows our Republican candidates on the ballot to win in Kent County and statewide. That’s really what I have my eye on.”

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