At just 21-years-old, Tenino’s Cutter Copeland not only is a full-time college student and working two jobs, but he’s also now bringing his enthusiasm to the Tenino City Council, filling Councilmember Position #2.
“I love Tenino,” says Copeland. “You can’t beat the small-town community. Every day when you wake up and go to town or into our local grocery stores or restaurants, you are going to see someone you know. It’s one big family in a city.”
Wrestling in high school, Copeland was honored as Washington State’s wrestling academic state champion for his weight class. “A big thing our coach Mike Morales instilled in us is multitasking,” he says. “With wrestling you have to worry about your grades, maintaining your weight, staying ready for competitions, all while having the hardest practices. That is something you can take to the workforce with you.”
With two jobs, being an online, full-time college student at Humboldt State University and now city council, multitasking is something that will help Copeland handle it all. “Wrestling taught me how to balance all these important responsibilities and put my best effort forward,” he says.
When he’s not serving delicious Mexican food at Don Juan’s Mexican Kitchen, Copeland is also a Behavior Skills Guide for youth experiencing autism, something he’s had to transition to doing fully online. “It was difficult at first but I have the best kids in the world and they transitioned super well,” he says.
He appreciates the skills he’s picked up working with the public. “Working at Don Juan’s taught me social skills to the max,” Copeland says. “Like how to enter a conversation and keep it going, and also how to deal with conflict and diffuse situations.”
Open communication is important to Copeland. “One word to define my leadership is transparency,” he says. “Meeting in the middle and seeing each other’s sides while getting to a point of unity and having important conversations. I think that is lacking right now: back and forth conversations without cutting each other off.”
His grandparents are his inspiration and they helped to shape him into the person he is today. “I was fortunate enough to have both sides of grandparents who were super involved in my life,” Copeland says. “They taught me a lot of needed skills.”
Given those relationships, Copeland feels comfortable communicating across the generations. “My mom always says I was described as having an old soul,” he says. “I love talking to adults. I bombard my grandparents with questions about what it was like for them growing up.”
Cutter isn’t the only person in the Copeland family who’s had the drive to contribute to the political climate of Tenino. His mom Susan was also on the city council from 2015 to 2019 but didn’t offer any advice to her son after his appointment. “She wanted me to make my own path and come to my own conclusions,” says Copeland. “She was super happy and proud of me and told me to have fun.”
One thing Copeland would like to see is more community involvement in city council and meetings and he encourages the people of Tenino to express their opinions. “The meetings are public and virtual,” he says. “You can sit on your couch and say how you feel but we aren’t having that right now.”
Copeland would also love to see more youth involvement in the community and city council. “Right now, they are at home with the time as college and high school students,” he says. “I would love to see them really involved with their voices so they can see their own impact.”
As Tenino High School’s Student Body President in 2017-2018, Copeland didn’t see politics in his future at that time. “Honestly, leadership is something I fell into in high school,” he says. “I was yearbook editor and varsity wrestling captain. Into college, I didn’t see that as a realistic journey in my life but it worked out. Now I am here, making lemonade out of lemons and it’s been wonderful.”
As he studies business administration with a marketing concentration, Copeland was considering a master’s degree in social work. Now, Copeland admits the city council could send him on a different path. “People have been joking this is my first step to the presidency,” he laughs. “Politics seems like an intriguing possibility.”
While the pandemic and life have changed Copeland’s plans, the civic-minded young person embraces the challenges. “If I could define 2020 in one word it would be adaptability,” he says. “To youth in the community, right now is a wonderful opportunity to learn and anything is possible. Life’s unpredictable but go with the flow and if an opportunity presents itself, take it.”