Sometimes you can go home again.
Dave Hemphill, a 2010 graduate of Bayfield High School, returned to his alma mater on Sept. 23 to meet with students in Alex Forsthoff's American Government class to discuss his career as data director for Colorado for the Republican National Committee.
In that capacity, he said he uses the calculus and algebra daily that he learned at BHS, even though he said he tried to drop his calculus class, telling teacher Jeff Misener, "I'm never going to use this."
After graduating, Hemphill attended Hastings College in Nebraska because he wanted to attend a small school that had a pre-law program, although he ended up studying political science and history.
After interning in Durango, he became the field director in Pueblo for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in 2012. There, he coordinated making 100,000 phone calls and knocking on 10,000 doors of local Republicans.
"I was 19 and had no idea what I was doing," he said.
He did learn that in presidential swing states such as Colorado, where a third of registered voters are Republican, a third are Democratic, and a third are Independent, "we literally have no clue who will win just by the registration numbers."
There are nine other swing states, including Florida, Ohio and Virginia, heavily targeted by political campaigns, he explained.
The target is the 270 electoral votes in the electoral college.
"Colorado is one of those states you have to fight for," he explained.
In 2012, that came down to how many voters his party could get to the polls, and the loss was painful, he added.
"Imagine a big game, and it's three months long!" he told the class, many of whom were wearing football jerseys and shirts for Bayfield's big game that night against Durango High School.
After the election, he interned for U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in his D.C. office, then returned to Hastings to complete his senior year of college and get his degree.
After graduation, he worked in millennial research for the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC.
He then worked on Cory Gardner's campaign for U.S. Senate, then went to Louisiana for a month to work for other Republican candidates.
As the RNC's state data director, he crunches numbers to provide data to field teams that they need to reach out and talk to registered Republicans, as well as independents and Democrats they think they might be able to reach.
On the state level, Colorado's state senate and house races are predicted to be "very, very, very close elections," he said, noting the legislature swings between Republican and Democratic control every few years. "Your vote can count."
Locally, school board elections and bond issues have a great deal of impact on local voters, he noted.
"If you're 18, you really, really should register," he advised.
During questions and answers, Hemphill was asked if he has met Republican candidate Donald Trump.
He replied no, although he has stood close to him.
"I'm the office guy," he noted. Other members of the RNC team are a press secretary and directors of strategic initiatives, who are heading up outreach to Hispanic and African American voters.
The RNC staff work with Donald Trump's state director and the Colorado Republican party.
He also works closely with five regional directors who have been in place since July of 2015. They oversee field organizers and neighborhood directors to reach out to voters.
Hemphill said he thinks BHS prepared him well for college and his future career. He knew other students at Hastings who didn't know how to write papers or make presentations, and he said he had done that here.
He also served as student body president at BHS and was in Knowledge Bowl and Science Olympiad. His parents, Cindy and Johnny Hemphill, still live part-time in the Bayfield area.
A big part of his job is battling apathy, he noted. "I have to chase down people to turn in their ballot," he said.
During his talk with students, longtime BHS math teacher Dianne Milner ran into the room to give Hemphill a hug.
"You guys just grow up and fly away!" she said.