Meet Justin York – one of the “30 under 30″ rising stars of Florida politics

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Justin York, 25, lives in Lake Mary and is preparing to graduate from law school at the University of Florida. He became interested in politics in 2000 as a 7th grader following a social studies assignment on election night. Watching news coverage to complete the homework, Justin became fascinated with discussions about the Electoral College, campaign issues, and candidates. He watched until the early hours of the morning that night, and still today.

As a senior in high school, Justin and a group of friends founded the Seminole High School Teenage Republicans Club, and he was elected president. He continued in leadership posts with the UCF College Republicans as chairman, and then as state chairman of the Florida Federation of College Republicans.  He interned for Sen. Lee Constantine, US Sen. Mel Martinez, the Senate campaign of Sen. George LeMieux, led student coalitions in Florida during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, and has volunteered for many more local and state candidates.

Justin puts family and friends above politics and knows that “nomatter what the result of an election is, you always can rely who are with you—win or lose—for strength and most importantly, perspective on what is important in life.”

One lesson Justin has learned is to “appreciate the team you work with.” Justin continues, “While success in most endeavors is not achieved alone, in politics this is especially true. Every time I recruited volunteers for a campaign walk or to call voters, I was grateful for every single volunteer and the time they committed.”

Here is Justin in his own words:

I am 25 years-young. I live in Lake Mary, Florida and am also from Lake Mary. I went to University of Central Florida for my undergraduate education, from 2006 to 2010. I am graduating this spring from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Of the many place I hope to visit, the American West is probably at the top of my list, particularly Wyoming and Montana.

I became interested in politics in 2000, when I was in 7th grade at South Seminole Middle School. My social studies teacher gave us an election night assignment. On a printed map of the United States, we were to shade in the states one color for Al Gore and another for George W. Bush as they states they won were announced on the news. As I watched the election night coverage to complete the assignment, I was fascinated with discussions about the Electoral College, the campaign issues, and the candidates. I continued to watch until the early hours of the morning as Florida’s electoral votes remained in doubt. From the subsequent recount to today, politics has been my passionate pursuit.

I suppose I “entered” politics my senior year of high school in 2006. A group of friends and myself started the Seminole High School (Sanford, Florida) Teenage Republicans club. I was proud to be elected president. In college, from 2006 to 2010, I was in leadership positions in the UCF College Republicans including chairman of the organization. From 2009 to 2010, I also served as state chairman of the Florida Federation of College Republicans, a statewide organization governing all chapters of College Republicans at Florida universities. I interned for Florida Senator Lee Constantine in 2007 and U.S. Senator Mel Martinez in 2009. I also worked on former Senator George LeMieux’s U.S. Senate campaign in 2011 and 2012. During the 2008 and 2012 campaigns I headed up the students’ coalitions in Florida for John McCain and Mitt Romney, respectively.

One principle I always put above politics is remembering what is important: family and friends. No matter what the result of an election is, you always can rely on those who are with you—win or lose—for strength and most importantly, perspective on what is important in life.

Person or people who gave me my first shot:

There are so many people I am grateful to for introducing me to the political scene. I’d have to include Al Schwartz, the Seminole County Republican Party chairman, and his predecessor, Jim Stelling. I’d also have to include Ariel Gaussart, a District Supervisor with the Seminole County Soil and Water Conservation District.

I’ve already worked for/on:

Professional:

I’ve worked at a few law firms. In college, from 2008 to 2010, I interned at a small PI/med-mal firm in Longwood, Florida. The firm, Webb, Wells & Williams, was my first legal job. The attorney I worked with, Dennis Wells, is a tribute to the legal profession. He was courteous, professional and skilled. In 2012, I worked as a summer associate at civil litigation firm—Wicker Smith—in Orlando, Florida. I have been fortunate to receive permanent post-graduation employment from an appellate firm in Winter Park—Brownstone, P.A. I first clerked there in the summer of 2011. As I look forward to working there, I continue to be impressed by the quality of the attorneys and their work product.

Campaigns:

During the 2006 campaign cycle, as a young College Republican, I volunteered for the Republican Party of Florida. We campaign generally for the statewide GOP ticket. During a special election in early 2007, I campaign heavily for Tony Suarez in Florida House District 49. It was tough campaign and a close loss but I enjoyed spending time campaigning in the district. I also was the student coalition chair for John McCain’s 2008 Florida primary campaign. I actually made it onto the McCain 2008 Central Florida Team in early 2007. I was an early and ardent supporter. During 2008, the UCF CRs and myself campaign heavily for the McCain-Palin ticket as well as local Florida House races—Eric Eisnaugle, Steve Crisafulli and Scott Plakon. In 2012, in addition to working on the Romney campaign, I heavily volunteered for John Mica’s congressional campaign, Marco Pena’s Florida House campaign in District 49, and Jason Brodeur’s Florida House campaign in District 28.

When I begin a project or first work on a campaign, I look for:

I first consider the objective. With campaigns, it’s obviously to win. Then I consider what are the practical means of achieving that objective. With campaigns, you consider disseminating favorable candidate information to voters, media (TV, radio, digital and social media), paraphernalia (stickers, signs, T-shirts, banners, etc.) absentee ballots, early voting and the GOTV operation.

In my experience, the most important thing for a candidate and campaign team is to get out to the voters, whether it’s by knocking on doors, showing up at events, or going on local TV and radio.

I’ve been blessed to have these people as my mentors:

My high school weighlifting coach, Mickey Yasko, was a great mentor. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2004 while I was still in school. But his words of wisdom remain with me still: “Leave your ego at the door.” “Pride plus honor gives you strength.” And “Believe in self, there is no room for mediocrity.”

I’ve had several teachers who I would consider great mentors. In high school, my history teacher, Mr. Bob Eissler. In college, Professor Connie Lester, who headed my undergraduate thesis committee and I am fortunate to call a friend.

In the professional world, I’d have to say the managing attorney at Brownstone, P.A., and my boss, Robert Sirianni is a great mentor. His commitment to personal and professional excellence inspires me to pursue the same with equal fervor.

And of course, my mother, Lisa York. As a single mother who became a successful sales and advertising executive, she continues to amaze me with her talent and perseverance. She also runs a non-profit in Seminole County, the Center for Victim Recovery, for victims of crime, domestic violence and child abuse. 

The people I most admire in politics are:

There are many politicians I admire—some of whom I know personally. But one who stands out in my mind is former President George W. Bush. I admire his commitment to a world free from tyranny. I also admire the depth of his compassion for our wounded veterans, and his efforts to let them know how grateful America is for their service and sacrifice. And his PEPFAR initiative to rid Africa of the scourge of AIDS, HIV and malaria has saved millions of lives.  I hope to one day similarly to have the opportunity to do so many good works for so many people.  

I also admire Sen. John McCain. After having read Faith of My Fathers, I was inspired by his patriot’s faith in America. He is and continues to be one of this nation’s toughest and most tenacious advocates for a nation inspired by noble ends committed to noble deeds.

One lesson I’ve already learned is…

How important it is to appreciate the team you work with. While success in most endeavors is not achieved alone, in politics this is especially true. Every time I recruited volunteers for a campaign walk or to call voters, I was grateful for every single volunteer and the time they committed.

If I wasn’t working in politics, I’d be working in (which field)…

I’d probably practice law exclusively. Also, everyone tells me I should consider going into radio. Maybe I’d be a DJ? Before going to law school, I also serious considered being a history professor. In high school, I tutored world history for freshman and sophomores. In college, I wrote an undergraduate thesis on the Bull Moose Party. I enjoyed both immensely.

In ten years, you’ll read about me…

Likely on a computer, as newspapers appear to be dwindling as a news medium. I find this to be unfortunate. I love having a crisp paper in the morning with a hot cup of coffee.

You can connect with me via (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
I’m on Facebook and on Twitter @justinyork

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.