HOLDEN – When the 17-year-old, wearing braces and freckles, walked into his first meeting as a member of the town’s conservation commission in September, he felt like all eyes were on him.
And they were.
“I think they all knew my age,” Ryan Warner, a Bangor High School senior, said the day after his first committee meeting.
After his second meeting, held on Tuesday, the novelty of his youth had basically worn off and Warner started to settle into his new job.
“I like being a part of the town of Holden,” he said Friday, responding to a questions about why he joined the panel. “I’m interested in forestry and political science, and it combines the two of those.”
Two of his former teachers – one from Bangor High School and one from elementary school – sit on the committee, which makes it easier, he said.
“I first got introduced with the conservation commission in my sophomore year with Dr. [Chris] Lage,” a BHS biology teacher at the time, Warner said. “So when I saw there was an opening, I said I’ll apply. It seems interesting.”
As a senior, Warner is involved in several extra-curricular activities. This year he participated in cross-county for the Rams, and for the past four years has been on the swim team, a member of the Junior Army ROTC and the rifle team.
And in June 2005, he signed on as a junior firefighter for his hometown, a posting that requires weekly training and occasional calls to fires and other emergency situations.
When asked what his friends thought of him joining the conservation commission, Warner said, “They where like, ‘Why would you do that?'”
And, believe it or not, the teenager still has time for a girlfriend.
“She was one of the few people who supported my decision,” he said, adding that his parents have always been supportive, as long as his activities didn’t affect his grades.
Sue Dawes, chairwoman of the Holden Conservation Commission, said on Wednesday that she was impressed with his proactive approach to the volunteer position.
“He already had knowledge of things that were going on,” she said. “He’s made some astute comments. I think we forget how smart kids are – it really amazes me.
“What a good kid,” Dawes noted.
Before stepping through the conservation commission door, Warner said he read a year’s worth of meeting minutes and notes to prepare. He is not a wallflower, Dawes said.
“He’s not shy about expressing himself,” she said. “He projects confidence.”
Even though Warner’s one-year appointment ends June 30, 2007, Dawes said she hopes he will continue with the panel while attending college.
At his first two meetings, the group worked on a trails project, plans to develop a small piece of land on the Main Road into a park and how to get the community more involved in conservation efforts.
Warner is already getting calls at home from people interested in his help with conservation issues in town. Because of his age, Warner said he wasn’t sure how to address the man who called.
“Do I call him mister or by his first name?” he questioned, then decided: “If I call him mister, he’ll know I’m 17.
“People don’t take 17-year-olds seriously.”
Maybe, after meeting Warner, they will.