A student speaking at an SGA meeting on a college campus

SEAN BARRY News-Post Staff
Feb 27, 2001
Updated Mar 11, 2016

He doesn’t like the term “environmentalist.” Too loaded.

For him, “environmentally conscious” is better.

He claims no political party affiliation. What’s meaningful is substance, not labels, he says.

And when asked, for example, if Frederick County is growing too fast, he doesn’t say yes or no. Instead, he talks about the need for officials to “plan for the future properly.”

With political savvy like that, it’s hard to believe 21-year-old Jeremiah Kelly isn’t destined for a seat in Annapolis. Or Washington.

But it’s far more than instincts shaping the future of the 1997 Frederick High School graduate.

It’s substance, too.

Substance revealed, for instance, when he’s asked about the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

“It’s on life support,” he said flatly, adding that recent legislative cleanup efforts are “drawn up well, but then watered down.”

And even though he’s loathe to get stuck with political labels at age 21, he acknowledges “concern” about President Bush’s attempts to scale back environmental protections pushed through by Bill Clinton.

Not that he’s a Clinton fan. Environmental protection shouldn’t be a partisan issue at all, he said.

“I want people to be judged on the positions they take, what they do, not what party they’re from,” he said.

It’s sad, he said, that someone practically “has to be a Republican to get elected in Frederick County and a Democrat to get anything done in Annapolis.”

Mr. Kelly, who majors in political science and minors in biology and international relations at Western Maryland College in Westminster, looks forward to a career based on shaping environmental policy.

And his preparations go beyond his collegiate credentials, which currently include an internship in Annapolis. Among other things:

He’s the governor of the Maryland Student Legislature, which learns about writing and drafting legislation, working closely with actual lawmakers.

He’s the president of S.E.R.V.E., Students Engaged in Rural Volunteer Experience, which helps poor people in rural Appalachia rebuild homes and community buildings.

He’s been the president of his class at Western Maryland College for the past four years.

He was homecoming king his freshman and sophomore year at the private school, and played baseball for two years, just as he did at Frederick High.

Mr. Kelly is engaged to Aimee Zimmerman, also a 1997 Frederick High graduate, who attends college in Virginia.

When he’s not spending social time with her, he’s watching “Top Gun” with roommate Matt Burger, who is also his chief of staff on the Maryland Student Legislature.

Mr. Kelly’s nickname: Maverick. That’s Tom Cruise’s character in the movie.