While most seniors are focused on finishing their final semester, Chris McBarnes is busy campaigning as a Republican Party candidate for the mayoral elections in Frankfort, Ind.
“If I could stand up and make a difference and put the hope back into the community, reviving the American dream in Frankfort, then I should do it,” he said.
The 23-year-old anthropology and communications major said he hopes to use his passion and energy to start making a difference in the world by changing people’s lives.
“What better place to do it than my hometown—the town that made me who I am today,” he said.
He said his family has been “engrained in the Frankfort community” since the day he was born. His father is the golf professional at the local course and his mother was a school nurse for 10 years.
McBarnes, an active member of Sigma Nu, said he has been involved in the Frankfort community for the last four years as the head music minister at Scotland Christian Church and is involved with the city council. He is constantly making trips back and forth from Butler to home to keep up his community involvement.
“I don’t want to be known as a politician there,” he said. “I want to be known as a leader in the community. I want to give people a voice that didn’t have a voice.”
McBarnes said his drive to help others comes from the hardships he has already faced within his own life.
In eighth grade, McBarnes said he woke up early for baseball practice before school one morning and felt a little out of sorts. That day changed his life.
McBarnes was diagnosed with a rare immune disorder and found himself in emergency surgery that very day.
Since then, McBarnes has undergone 30 different operations. He said the scary thought of not knowing what the future holds is always present.
After a recent episode that left McBarnes crawling up the steps of the Sigma Nu house and dialing 911 for help, he said life was truly put into perspective.
“I felt like I’d gotten hit by a truck,” he said. “I finally got the fact that we’re all terminal—we are all dying. Some of us are just lucky enough to know it.”
McBarnes said after his recovery, there was no looking back—it was time to seek out ways he could reach out and help people.
He said his Butler experience has prepared him for, if elected, serving as mayor.
College of Communications professor Paul Sandin has known McBarnes for three years and is his academic adviser.
“Chris will bring to the position a thoughtful, honest approach to governing,” he said. “He is young and has young ideas for his administration and his town.
“McBarnes represents what you hope politics can become.”
McBarnes said he sees his youth as an advantage in his campaign.
He thinks people will realize that though he is young, his life experiences have helped him mature in ways that are uncommon for a young adult.
“If we have learned anything in the past eight months, it’s that people are tired of business as usual,” he said. “We want something fresh and something new.”
If elected, McBarnes said his goals include invigorating the youth of his community to get them more involved in public policy making, as well as advocating for small business owners that he said account for three out of four jobs in America today.
“It’s a growing experience and you learn a lot about yourself. There are so many things going into this,” McBarnes said. “I want to build a relationship with the citizens of Frankfort.”