Circuit court judge candidate employs high schoolers, senior citizens


Vi Adulante

Helen Miron, an 87-year-old retired speech pathologist, sits at her dining room table in her home in Urbana. Miron is currently the oldest intern for Ruth Wyman’s circuit judge campaign.

By Vi Aldunate, Contributing Writer

Many local election campaigns employ interns for aid with campaign tasks, though it’s rare for a campaign to have a 69-year age gap between its youngest and oldest interns. Whereas other campaigns may employ only college students, Ruth Wyman’s campaign for circuit judge additionally depends on the input of high school students and senior citizens.

Ruth Wyman, a licensed attorney, is currently running for circuit judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit, which includes Champaign County among its represented counties. The core of Wyman’s campaign team includes Wyman herself, a campaign coordinator and five interns. Among these interns is Helen Miron, an 87-year-old retired speech pathologist, and Caleb Pyrz, an 18-year-old Central High School student.

When recruiting interns, the Wyman campaign sought individuals that were already familiar with their communities but willing to engage further.

“A lot of the interns we’ve chosen have strong connections in the U of I community and are active in a lot of organizations … They’re interested in making sure students are heard,” Wyman said. “And, frankly, they’re interested in justice.”

Miron believes the younger student interns on the Wyman campaign have power in their community connections.

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“I think they’re working closer to people, to the students and [they] all are the voters now … I think they have more input on campus, and at large,” she said.

Pyrz, a high school senior, says he joined the campaign because of his interest in pursuing law professionally. Pyrz, who recently turned 18, values the right to vote and hopes to mobilize young people to be civically active.

“If we don’t show up, we are missing a big opportunity to change the world,” he said.

Miron has leveraged her background as a speech pathologist on the campaign. The 87-year-old says to pay close attention to body language and conviction of speech when evaluating politicians’ honesty. Miron explains she joined the Wyman campaign because she admired Wyman’s presence when meeting her at a sign-making event for the campaign.

“I listened to her — she answered the questions, she was direct, she was intelligent, she was firm without being pushy. And I thought, this is a good woman,” she said. “She has a lot of strength and a lot to offer.”

Wyman herself has an extensive record as a pro bono defense attorney and has also served eight years on the Urbana City Council, along with contributing to other public service organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Organization for Women. Prior to this work, however, Wyman became politically engaged as an undergraduate student at the University. Wyman cites her position as president of the Illini Democrats on campus her senior year as her own political debut. For Wyman, this was a productive time during which she learned extensively from the people she worked with or met through the position.

“My senior year, I registered more than 500 students to vote,” Wyman said. “My introduction to politics, to democracy, came at U of I. And I’m really grateful not only for the education in the classroom but the education on campus, and [for] working with various student organizations and … the Champaign County Democrats to increase voter registration and student participation in local elections.”

As Wyman sees it, her early start proved consequential. “It was that experience and those connections that helped me run for and win a city council seat two years after getting my bachelor’s degree,” she said. Wyman was elected for a Council seat at age 23.

Miron remembers when the federal voting age in the U.S. was lowered.

“One of the things I was really happy to see was when they changed the voting age to 18. Because you all, 18-year-olds, you could be drafted, you could have driver’s licenses, but you couldn’t speak up in terms of what you wanted for your country,” she said. “And so opening the vote to the 18-year-olds also opened up a whole new way of thinking. Because 18-year-olds don’t think the way 40-year-olds and 50-year-olds do … It’s time for change.”

Though Pyrz is only 18, he agrees that political ideals adapt according to the circumstances of a generation.

“If I took a time machine back to a point in the past, for example, when most young men at age 18 were preparing to go to war, I think I would feel a lot differently than I do now,” he said. “Environments, abundance or lack of resources, and ways of connection impact beliefs. All of these will continue to change over time.”

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