Tyler Wood of Hattiesburg is an average outdoor-loving Southern boy who enjoys football. What makes him distinct from most 18-year-olds is his special interest in politics. Wood is running for the 2017 Forrest County Election Commissioner and is the youngest person in United States history to run for the position.
On Election Day in November, Wood hopes to take the spot of incumbent election commissioner, Charles Phillips, who has held the job in District 1 of Forrest County for five terms.
Phillips is running for his sixth term.
“You get to know the people, number one, and you get to know the locations of everybody,” Phillips said. “You recognize the people that are moving in and moving out, the locations. It’s some vast experience needed to run this office.”
Wood serves as a member of the Forrest County Republican Executive Committee. When the committee was looking for someone to run against Phillips, Wood took the stand.
“The republican executive committee is completely behind me, and they were looking for somebody to run, but nobody else would step up to the plate and run,” Wood said. “And when I entered, I was the laughing [stock] of the entire election. Nobody thought I had a chance. Now, guess what?”
Wood said he has a chance to win.
“If I’m elected, I’m not after this job for the benefits,” he said. “I’m after it to bring fair elections back to Forrest County.”
Wood said that the executive committee is in charge of the primary elections whereas election commissioners are in charge of general elections.
“Have you ever heard of a ballot box missing in primary elections?” Wood said. “I used to work with my opponent on election night, and I’ve seen some crooked and shady stuff that he’s done,” Wood said. “He did some stuff that he shouldn’t do, but the tax payers are paying him. I’m hoping that I’d be better to serve better in that capacity and take on that role.”
Wood’s mother serves as the state treasurer of the Republican party, which is an influencing factor in how he became involved with politics.
“That’s how I got my little input,” Wood said. “I served alongside my mother for five years on the Forrest County Republican Executive Committee.”
As soon as Wood turned 18, he was voted on to the executive committee. Wood said he registered to vote the day of his birthday.
“I just want to see fair elections for all candidates,” Wood said. “I don’t care if they’re republican, democrat, independent, third party – whatever they are – each candidate deserves a fair and honest election.”
“I’ve watched this young man grow up and he has been involved in politics since he was 8 years old,” said Gina Musgrove of Hattiesburg. “He has more experience and knowledge than most candidates running.”
Wood said that he gets people to vote for him through the belief that dishonest people are controlling the election process.
“People know that these elections are not being done properly, and they’re willing to vote for anybody else but my opponent,” he said. “I know that seems a little cruel, but people who know about the election process and not are the regular folk who just vote and don’t care about anything else. These people who are hardcore voters look at how the elections been processed.”
Wood has been endorsed by Republican Charlie Sims, who is running for Forrest County Sherriff, and Alisha Nelson McElhenney, who was a Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi in the 2015 elections.
“If I am elected, I guarantee not one box will go missing,” Wood said. “I’m not [only] going to guarantee that. I’m going to step it up a notch. I guarantee not one box will be submitted late.”
After 2015’s Tuesday election, the ballot box from Dantzler Community Center in Forrest County’s District 1 arrived late to the Forrest County Courthouse.
Wood aspires to reach the national level in a political position.
“I’ve always grown up with adults and politicians,” he said. “Everything I do, I give it 110 percent.”
Wood said he is focusing on his campaign and will return his focus to school after the election.
Wood said his supporters are what motivate him in throughout the campaigning and election process.
“I’ve had an enormous number of people come thank me and show me their gratitude about my running,” he said. “I get them from republicans, democrats, independents, libertarians – everybody.”