Allegheny grad voted Lawrence County commissioner

Twenty-one year old Boyd successfully runs second campaign for local office

When reflecting on Morgan Boyd, ’18, and his career since leaving Allegheny College, Quigley Hall Building Coordinator Sarah Holt knew exactly what to say.

“He knew exactly what he wanted to do, and he’s doing it,” Holt said. “He doesn’t want a lot of fluff. He wanted to just get to where he wanted to be.”

Boyd’s no-fluff approach to his goals, said Holt, has been extremely rewarding to watch since she first met him during her time as the senior assistant director of admissions and coordinator of campus visit programs in the fall of 2016. Most recently, Boyd ran a successful campaign for commissioner in his native Lawrence County, officially being elected in November 2019.

His journey to that election could be traced back to his work at his family’s turf-grass supply company, beginning at age 11, or the fact that before graduating high school, he had already been involved in political campaigns, according to Holt. Boyd said that his time at Allegheny was “absolutely” an important chapter of that story, helping to prepare him for where he is now.

Robert G. Seddig Chair for Political Science Brian Harward knew he would be an important part of the college’s story.

“He was just really talented and outgoing and very clearly a mature and capable young man,” Harward said. “He just impressed me as someone that we would hear from again for sure.”

The strong first impression Boyd made in those early interactions drove Sarah Holt to provide him with information on the school’s Political Science-related programs, including the Law and Policy Program and the Center for Political Participation. Boyd credits her “entirely” with his decision to visit campus and eventually commit to the school, confident that the decision “just felt right.”

Boyd entered Allegheny with plans to participate in the 3-2 cooperative program with the Heinz College of Carnegie Mellon. The program typically consists of three years of study at Allegheny and two at Carnegie Mellon, ultimately resulting in a Master’s degree. Boyd accelerated the program by completing his Allegheny studies in two years.

“It was unbelievable to me that he could finish it in two years, but Morgan gets it done,” Holt said.

Boyd “got it done” by taking 24-credit semesters, he said, in addition to his involvement in the Law and Policy Program and Omicron Delta Epsilon, the economics honor society at Allegheny.

Boyd also ran for his first political office during his time at Allegheny.

Boyd began that first campaign for a seat on the New Wilmington Borough council in 2017, with “doors and 25-yard signs.” He was inspired by the Rust Belt decline of his hometown, where he said he watched the area struggle to retain businesses, families and property values.

“My home was dying, and I wanted to step in and see if I could do anything about that,” Boyd said. He began a campaign in which he estimates that he knocked on 80% of  doors of the 900 voters in the borough of New Wilmington, having face-to-face conversations with anyone who opened the door.

Harward said it was “so exciting” to be a faculty member watching Boyd campaign as a student, adding that only three or four other students have done similar things during his time as a professor at Allegheny.

“I’m very proud of him,” Harward said. “It’s hard to balance those commitments and obligations to their home community and also their community here on campus, but (he and other students who ran for office) made that decision.”

Boyd said he had limited time to be involved in other on-campus activities while juggling his responsibilities as a councilor in a town that is 45 minutes away from Meadville, describing it as “hell” but ultimately a “worthwhile challenge.”

“I loved every second of it,” Boyd said. “But at times it was difficult, and everybody in college is familiar with it, right? You’re pulling all-nighters. You’re working on homework for one class in another class. You’re down at a council meeting and your thought process is ‘all right, I’ve got this, this and this to do.’”

Boyd navigated those challenges and was accepted into the the Heinz College of Carnegie Mellon’s Master of Science in Public Policy and Management, where he now studies. He credits Allegheny with his preparation for the course load he manages there.

“I was able to transition fairly smoothly from Allegheny to Carnegie Mellon and, I think, achieve success there,” Boyd said. “On top of that, the analytical skills, the interpersonal skills taught to me at Allegheny again I think helped out tremendously in becoming at least some degree of successful in politics.”

Boyd was again “at least some degree of successful” in his recent election to the seat of Lawrence County commissioner. This campaign, according to Boyd, still operated on the same basic principles, but the transition from the borough level (of roughly 2,500 people and 900 voters) to the county (of about 85,000 people and 22,000 voters) came with new requirements.

“The best way to win a political campaign is to talk to people,” Boyd said. “The best way to talk to people was to go up on their doors.”

Boyd said that he expanded his time and energy beyond those essential doorsteps, making TV, radio and community event appearances and running a social media campaign. The final result was, he said, “a year-long process where you have to talk to twenty times the people and spend fifty times the money.”

He said the move from the borough to the council level was motivated by a desire for more resources to better work to solve his community’s problems.

“The county is sort of a better mechanism where I’m able to work across municipal lines, where I have access to more resources, more staff to tackle problems that aren’t necessarily stopping at the borough of New Wilmington or the City of New Castle boundaries,” Boyd said.

His drive to help his community saw results, ultimately pulling 9,963 votes to make Boyd the second-highest vote-getter and help him to become, according to New Castle News, “the county’s youngest commissioner-elect in recent history.”

Boyd said he has not allowed his young age to become a deterrent for voters in either of his two campaigns for public office.

“I find in my experiences that age is only a factor if you let it become a factor,” Boyd said.

Regarding his first campaign, he attributed his ability to become a viable candidate and not “just a college student” to his time spent knocking on doors and interacting with voters. Age did not define his campaign for county commissioner, either.

“It’s going to take more time to build that up and that’s a sizable hurdle to overcome, but it’s doable,” Boyd said. “At the end of the day, experience matters less than people think it does. If you come across as capable, if you have some degree of experience behind you, and you’re able to articulate a solid message, you can get elected.”

Boyd’s degree of experience has Holt and Harward eager for his return to campus.

“When (Boyd) comes back, I hope he’ll spend time with our students and think through (the message of) ‘you can do this too, you can be engaged in this way,’” Harward said. “Other students in Law and Policy and other students outside Law and Policy could benefit from that.”

Holt said she sees him as a valuable addition to the alumni base that acts as a valuable resource for students and encourages students to take advantage of successful alumni like Boyd.

Boyd’s advice for students who might be looking to him as an example is to get involved — and if they are considering running for local office, “just do it.”

“The hardest part of any campaign is walking up that first sidewalk and recognizing, ‘hey, there’s a voter in this house,’ walking up to their door, knocking on it,” Boyd said, adding that the stages of the campaign that follow will not necessarily be easy but rather “a gratifying kind of hard.”

Boyd’s philosophy on tackling those challenges, even against uncertain odds, can be summed up in just a few words.

“I felt like I had to try, and so that’s what I did,” Boyd said.