Local government is seeing a bit of youthful ambition with the summer election of a recent University of South Dakota graduate.
Parker Erickson, 23, graduated from USD in May with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. Four months later, he is one of the youngest council members in Vermillion’s history.
Erickson grew up in the nearby town of Gayville, S.D., but said Vermillion has been a second home to him because of family and Dakota Realty — a local business co-owned by his mother, Glynis Erickson, and uncle, Hazen Bye.
“I’ve always wanted to help the community that’s been here for me,” he said. “I didn’t see a reason not to run, and if anything, the whole thing would be a good experience.”
Graduation last spring was followed by Erickson walking door to door, collecting signatures so his name could be added to the ballot for City Council elections. The 23-year-old ran unopposed, was elected and began serving as a Northwest Ward representative, in July.
Fellow City Councilman Rich Holland said he was “pleasantly surprised” by Erickson’s election. He said the USD graduate makes a point of listening to more experienced members, but has voiced his disagreement at times about council decisions.
“Being a youth, you think you can solve all the world’s problems,” Holland said. “Parker’s going a better route and picking a few things he can accomplish right here in town.”
[notification type=”grey” title=”Vermillion City Council”]Vermillion’s City Council meets the first and third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at City Hall. [/notification]
Surprise is something Erickson often hears when people find out he is in local government, but he said he believes his age has allowed more USD students to reach out to him with questions, especially fraternity and sorority members.
Dave Gottsleben, USD men’s head track and field coach, first met Erickson when he was a star high school Gayville-Volin runner. He recruited the Gayville native, but Erickson only ran for a year.
Gottsleben said Erickson had a difficult time as a student athlete getting out of the shadow of his older sister, Emma Erickson, who became a national champion in the 800-meters in 2008. But Gottsleben said the youngest member of Vermillion’s current City Council appears to have found his identity off the track.
“I’ve known Parker as a jovial kid, but I’m glad to see him in a serious role like this,” Gottsleben said. “He always worked hard for our team. He’s a good kid from a good family.”
Erickson said he faces re-election in two years when his term expires in 2018. In the meantime, he is working for Dakota Realty and helping out on his father’s farm. Erickson said he wants to do more as a councilman to connect the university to the town’s development.
“USD is a big part of our community, but there needs to be more involvement — maybe more interaction — between students and residents,” he said. “If you want USD to grow, you need to want to see the town of Vermillion grow.”
(Parker Erickson, who graduated from the University of South Dakota in May, serves as a Vermillion City Council member for the northwest ward. Malachi Petersen|The Volante)