For many youth, turning 18 is a magical date when the law tells them they no longer have to listen to their parents because they have become adults. They can join the military without asking permission, register for Selective Service and make their voices heard by voting.

Too often, however, those very same young adults never exercise their right to vote. But for one Copperas Cove resident, voting in the local elections was the very first thing she did on her 18th birthday.

“It felt good. And it was very easy to do,” Rebeka Gustafson, who turned 18 on Wednesday, said. “I had to come in and vote for my dad. I had never really thought about voting until he asked me who I was going to be voting for in each of the open positions (for city government).”

That simple question made her realize that she would actually be able to vote for the coming Nov. 3 election, so she started to look into each of the candidates to see what they stood for.

“My dad helped me look them up so I could make up my mind,” Gustafson, the daughter of City Council Place 2 candidate James Pierce Jr., said. “I already knew I’d be voting for my dad, though!”

Now that she’s seen how easy it is to vote, she said she would encourage all her friends to vote.

“It just takes five minutes. You may as well just go do it and make a difference,” she added.

Gustafson’s husband, 21-year-old Brady Gustafson, said voting with his wife on her birthday was not only special, but also his first time voting in a local election.

“I’ve always looked at voting on a national scale, but I had never really looked into local elections the way I should,” he said. “With my father-in-law running for office, it kind of pushed me to making that step.”

Brady Gustafson added that it took his father-in-law running to realize how much of an impact local governments have on daily living.

“Your local community is your livelihood, so you should probably pay more attention to what goes on here rather than anywhere else,” he said.

Pierce, of course, was extremely proud of seeing his daughter’s smile when she came out of the voting booth.

“I’m very proud, especially since it’s her birthday,” he said. “She and Brady exercised their civic duty, which is most important. A lot of kids discount that these days — they don’t really think it’s a big deal. But it is, because if you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”

dbryant@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7554

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