- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Inside his third-floor office in the Cannon House Office Building, John Pehr dreams of running for office.

First, he’ll have to pass his driver’s test and Advanced Placement exams.

At 15, John is one of the youngest interns to work on Capitol Hill, but his youth hasn’t hindered his political instincts.

“When you talk to him, it’s not like you’re talking to a 15-year-old; it’s like you’re talking to a political science student,” said Rep. Tom Feeney, Florida Republican and John´s boss.

John traded surfing for Capitol tours and his basketball jersey for a pressed blue shirt with a white collar and a red power tie. He walks to work from his dorm room and calls his mom at the end of the day to let her know he is safely home.

“It will be the longest I’ve been away from my parents,” John said. “My mom’s real nervous and tells me over and over again not to venture off my routine.”

John has won friends and influenced people since entering the political arena two years ago. The high school sophomore from Volusia County, Fla., volunteered for Gov. Charlie Crist’s successful 2006 gubernatorial campaign and worked alongside Jim Coffield, chairman of the county’s Republican Executive Committee.

Mr. Coffield’s favorable remarks helped John land the internship.

Mr. Feeney said it’s rare to see someone John’s age so fired up about politics.

“He kind of reminds me of a friend I have that every time I’m around him I think, ‘If there’s someone who needs to come and work in Congress, it’s him,’” said Mr. Feeney’s intern coordinator, Lindsey Parker. “I’m continually impressed with his go-getter attitude.”

John’s conservative principles and Republican ideals make him the minority among his family and friends, but he doesn’t press his beliefs on others. Instead, he trades typical high school banter with his young friends. John said he doesn’t know anybody his age as involved in politics as himself.

“A common misconception people have [about me] is ‘he’s a pretty dorky guy,’ but that’s not true,” John said.

The 2004 presidential debates between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, sparked John’s interest in politics. He idolizes former President Ronald Reagan as well as Mr. Feeney and believes in smaller government, tax cuts and a strong defense.

“You can tell he’s not just here to have an internship on Capitol Hill, but to have an internship in a conservative office,” said Mr. Feeney’s Chief of Staff Tonnie Wybensinger.

John hopes to attend Georgetown University and Georgetown Law School but said the liberal environment there will not change him.

“I’ve found my opinions, and I’m going to stick with them,” he said.



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