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Meet the future of the Democratic Party

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Sam Miller insists she’s an introvert, but that’s hard to believe.

She serves as the Vice President of College Democrats of Ohio, a statewide organization, and as the Senator At-Large in Ohio University’s Student Senate. Last year, she was the President of the Ohio University College Democrats.

Still, she’d rather be reading a book — her favorite is The Great Gatsby — or listening to one of her more than 150 vinyl records in her coveted collection than sitting for an interview.

Sam Miller with Hillary Clinton during her failed run for President. (Provided.)
Sam Miller with Hillary Clinton during her 2016 run for President. (Provided.)

She wears a beige cardigan, totes a large handbag and checks the time on the watch strapped across her left wrist. The watch and bag are new additions to Miller’s wardrobe, gifts to herself to celebrate the beginning of her final year as an undergrad at Ohio U.

But Miller didn’t grow up with many luxuries.

“I’m a child of the Welfare system,” Miller said. “I grew up on food stamps. I grew up on the Medical Card, so my health insurance was paid for by the government. Without that, I don’t know where I’d be.”

Her childhood home wasn’t particularly political. Her single mother of four didn’t discuss the candidates she voted for or policies she prefered. Still, politics were everywhere. Usually through budget cuts to the social welfare programs Miller needed.

“Growing up I was very aware that there were people that were going to be making decisions that affected my family,” Miller said. “And they didn’t know us. They didn’t understand how really stressful it was for my mom to figure out where our next meal was going to come from.”

Newborn Sam Miller, her mother and three of her siblings. (Provided)
Sam Miller with her mother during the birth of her sister. (Provided)

That’s why the 21-year-old from Somerset, OH — a village in Perry County with a population less than 1,500 — wants to solve problems that impact her own Appalachian community.

One of those problems is the opioid epidemic, which kills thousands in Ohio each year. Miller has seen members of her family suffer from opioid addiction.

“I want to find real solutions to this problem,” Miller said. “A lot of people are just like ‘invest money, invest resources.’ Well, that’s only part of the problem. The rehabilitation needs to go longer than that first 30 days. It’s a lifelong rehabilitation.”

She has passion for other causes, too, like access to abortion and birth control.

“Women are people,” Miller said. “And just because we’re able to grow another human inside of us doesn’t mean you have the right to restrict that.”

The former President of the Ohio University College Democrats spent much of her tenure working to elect a woman — Hillary Clinton, a loss which Miller attributes at least partially to sexism.

Miller is no stranger to sexism. While she said she’s “lucky” to have been able to attend school on a relatively liberal campus, she’s still been a victim of what she labels “undercover sexism.”

“I can’t tell you the amount of people I would email and set up meetings with, and I would show up and they would said ‘Oh, I thought you would be a boy.’ Sam is a pretty gender neutral name in my opinion, but people expected the leader of an organization to be a man,” Miller said. “Oh, no, I’m definitely a girl.”

WATCH: On the Issues with Sam Miller

She’s caught the attention of Athens County Democratic Party Chair John Haseley, who said she’s been an asset to the county party and to local candidates.

“She’s been on the front lines politically in our region, and has been a huge benefit to the county,” Haseley said. “There’s a lot of good things to say about Sam. If she does move away from Athens after graduation, she’ll be missed.”

She’s also impressed Athens Mayor Steve Patterson. In addition to her roles with Ohio U’s Student Senate and College

Sam Miller and former Gov. Ted Strickland pose during his failed run for U.S. Senate in 2016. (Provided)
Sam Miller and former Gov. Ted Strickland pose during his failed run for U.S. Senate in 2016. (Provided)

Democrats of Ohio, Miller is an intern at Patterson’s office. The mayor calls her his “OU Liaison.”

“She brings a fresh perspective to everything going on with my office staff,” Patterson said. “Her work ethic is fantastic. Rather than her working directly for me, I have the confidence in her abilities and her ability to multitask where she is available to all of my staff.”

“We’re trying to keep her from graduating so we can keep her here longer,” Patterson joked.

April will be the end of the road for Miller’s undergraduate career at Ohio U. She doesn’t know exactly where her post-grad life will take her just yet, but she said she wouldn’t be surprised to see herself working on a 2018 campaign.

But there’s still work to be done now. Miller has spent most nights over the past few weeks planning the College Democrats of Ohio’s fall conference and fundraiser.

“I’m terrible at asking people for money,” Miller admits. She’ll have to get better at if if she wants her own career in politics, which she confesses she does. She’s aiming for an elected position by the time she hits 30.

“Long term, I wouldn’t be offended if I was elected Senator of Ohio,” Miller said.

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