Ever since he was elected governor at Cornhusker Boys State shortly before his senior year of high school, University of Nebraska-Lincoln junior Hunter Traynor has had a zeal for politics.
That same zeal carried him from being the speaker of the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska to being the organization’s incoming president. And in the face of this year’s low voter turnout — just over 11 percent compared to last year’s nearly 18 percent — Traynor said that zeal will come in handy when reshaping ASUN’s public image.
Traynor, a political science major, was raised in Elkhorn. For the better part of his days in Elkhorn High School, Traynor said neither he nor his family could imagine his future career as anything other than a surgeon.
“I loved science throughout my youth,” he said. “I never thought I’d pursue political science.”
But that all changed when he was chosen for Cornhusker Boys State, a program put on by the American Legion in which students from high schools across the state are selected to learn the inner-workings of Nebraska’s government during a week in the summer.
Emulating the Nebraskan government, students are divided into different towns and are allowed to run for office in the program.
“I thought, ‘What the heck, I’ll run for mayor of my town,’” Traynor said.
After Traynor won that election, he started to gain steam in the community. His next target was the highest officer there.
“A lot of people in my town saw potential in me and encouraged me to run for governor,” Traynor said. “I owe 100 percent of my success to the guys in my town. They were so supportive.”
Traynor was elected as Cornhusker Boys State governor, and that’s when he decided to ditch his future of scrubs for a future of suits.
“I give [my election] full credit for sparking my interest in politics,” he said.
When Traynor came to college, that spark for public service only grew. His freshman year, he joined the Freshman Campus Leadership Associates, an organization dedicated to providing “outstanding freshman students with the tools and opportunities to jump-start their leadership,” according to its website.
His sophomore year, he served as the co-director of FCLA and participated with the Government Liaison Committee, the wing of student government that lobbies on behalf of student interests at local, state and federal levels.
This year, he served as a senator for the College of Arts and Sciences and was the speaker of ASUN, helping lead alongside the executive council.
As the recently-elected president, Traynor said he will endeavor to make key changes to ASUN.
Overall, Traynor said he wants to give ASUN a friendlier face. He chalks the small voter turnout up to a general lack of communication between the student body and ASUN.
“ASUN cannot operate efficiently, effectively and achieve the changes that we all hope it can without a relationship between the ASUN and students that is robust and open,” he said. “I really want to focus on outreach and constituent engagement.”
As part of achieving this goal, one of the cultural changes Traynor has suggested to ASUN is that all its members carry a notebook where they can log a meeting with a new student every day. He said he wants ASUN to be visible and approachable.
“I want students to feel like that they can come up to me and talk about their concerns,” Traynor said. “No matter what I’m doing, I want students to stop me and tell me how ASUN can do better.”