At the top of the state
In just a week, Callaghan Coleman became a lawyer, then a judge, then county attorney, and reached the level of attorney general – at this year’s Boys State.
And he may be one of two students to represent Iowa at Boys Nation later this year in Washington, D.C.
Boys State is a yearly program run by the American Legion which teaches young men about politics. For one week, students create their own mock state, complete with city, county and state-level offices, living in barracks at Camp Dodge in Johnston.
A junior at St. Edmond High School, Coleman was nominated by the school, accepted by the local American Legion post, and sponsored by the Noon Kiwanis Club.
By the end of the week, Coleman was one of four students out of 440 being considered for Boys Nation.
“There are four selected for Boy’s Nation. Two delegates, and two alternates. I was selected to be an alternate,” Coleman said.
He hasn’t found out yet if he’ll get to go.
“You know, I received a text message asking me if I was going where I would fly out from,” he said. “So I’m not sure at this time, but I think that would be a great experience if I did.” Adult counselors in each barracks recommend boys for those four slots to a board, said Dennis Britson, Chief of Staff for the Boys State program in Iowa, and a member of that board.
Coleman “looked very good on paper, and did very well in his interview,” Britson said. “We were impressed. I thought he was very well-poised for a high school youth, well spoken, and seemed to be a great young man.”
Coleman’s trip to the attorney general position started with local elections at the beginning of the week.
“I was selected from my city – which is a barracks – I was selected out of about 25 guys to be a lawyer, so I got to go to law school,” Coleman said. “They had a mock trial I got to participate in. Then a mock bar exam, which I was fortunate enough to test in the top group, so I got selected to be a judge.”
Coleman was elected county attorney, then ran for the state position. Out of 200 in his political party, about 35 tried out for Attorney General, he said. Four were selected.
“I had to go through the whole process of running to get that spot,” he said.
After making speeches and meeting with people, Coleman won his party election, then the general election, becoming one of seven students to sit on the executive board that includes a Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Agriculture.
“At the state level, I decided I didn’t want to run for governor. That seemed like a pretty hectic job,” Coleman said. “I wanted to experience more of the other programs at Boys State.”
Coleman was on a Boys State softball team and in the band and choir, in addition to everything else going on.
The experience taught him a lot about politics.
“I’m sure it’s just 1/100th of what politics is, but it was a great experience, and it really gave me an insight into the whole political system,” he said. “When you see the campaign ads, do you really think they’re that important? But really, at Boys State it showed that campaigning was the most important aspect to get elected.”
Coleman said he wants to get his law degree and be a trial lawyer.
“After that, I’ve thought about going into politics. My grandfather was a state senator, and I’ve thought about going that route.”
Coleman was sent along with Eddie Doyle and James Averill from St. Edmond, and Riley Prescott, Tucker Zanwey, Andrew Stover and Desmond Greene from Fort Dodge Senior High.
He said the Fort Dodge students stuck together and helped each other out.
“(They) did a really good job of helping me. In the campaigning, they all got their barracks to vote for me,” Coleman said. “(Stover) asked me if I’d bring my glove so we could play catch. I thought that was a very nice gesture, considering we are rivals on the baseball field.”
Coleman’s father Joe Coleman, Jr., said he was proud of what his son had accomplished.
“I know a lot of the boys that went,” Joe Coleman said. “They’re all very good young men, and I think the community should be proud of all of them.”
The boys are also exposed to a bit of a military regiment while living in the barracks -up every morning with reveille, bunk inspections every day, and exercising at mealtimes.
“It was a very organized and regimented experience. I think that’s good for them to see,” he said.