BY ERIN KOURKOUNIS
TUPELO – Clad in khaki pants, a crisp white dress shirt and tie, Cortez Moss is all business.
He's carrying a binder full of papers and Democratic Party buttons. By his professional demeanor, nobody would guess that he is only 18.
Moss became the youngest member of the Mississippi Democratic Party Executive Committee at the June 7 state convention.
Party activists say Moss, who was born and reared in Calhoun City, is the youngest member from Northeast Mississippi ever to be elected to the committee.
Fresh out of high school, where he held several leadership positions, Moss plans to attend the University of Mississippi this fall, where he will study English and political science. He originally planned to go to Mississippi State University, but Ole Miss offered him $40,000 more in scholarships.
Moss said he believes he can bring new energy and ideas to the Mississippi Democratic Party.
“I feel that it's going to be challenging, but I feel that I can serve as an asset to the board with my charisma and self-motivation,” he said.
Moss began getting into politics while working on this year's campaign of then-Prentiss County Chancery Clerk Travis Childers, who won the special election for Mississippi's 1st District seat in Congress.
On July 12, the executive committee will meet officially for the first time and members will be appointed to standing committees. They also will elect a state chairman for the Democratic Party.
Despite Moss' youth, he already has set several goals for himself. He is considering law school and running for a seat in the Mississippi House of Representatives in 2011. But he has even bigger dreams – to become the speaker of the U.S. House.
Moss said he is looking forward to working with fellow committee member Jamie Franks of Mooreville, who got into politics at a young age.
He said he admires that Franks became a state representative at the age of 21 and plans to vote for him for state chairman.
Franks said he got to know Moss when he volunteered at the party headquarters the week before the convention.
“I think he'll be an asset because of his strong work ethic and his commitment to Democratic principles and making sure life is better for all Mississippians,” said Franks, an attorney and unsuccessful party nominee for lieutenant governor.
Brandon Presley, Northern District Public Service Commissioner, said it's wonderful that Moss and other young people are getting involved with politics.
Presley, a Democrat, was the mayor of Nettleton – elected in 2001 at age 23. Now at 30, he is the youngest public service commissioner ever elected in Mississippi.
“I think a lot of young people are a fresh set of eyes that see the world in a different way than others might,” he said.
Moss said his inspiration comes from Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.
“He has a sense of urgency for change in America,” he said. “When he takes a stand on an issue, he's going to work to make sure his voice is heard.”
Contact Erin Kourkounis at (662) 678-1590 or firstname.lastname@example.org.