Blake Roller was sitting in a pizza shop on New Year's Eve when he decided to run for Sullivan County Commissioner.

"And I thought, you know, I should do it," he said. "So I walked across the parking lot and went in and said, 'I am looking into running for office.'"

At a Christmas party earlier that month, Roller's former fifth grade teacher had mentioned the lack of young state and local representatives, encouraging Roller to launch his own campaign.

After years of involvement with Key Club and Tennessee 4-H during high school, Roller already held his county officials in great esteem.

"I got to go and meet all the politicians and sit in the Senate and really learn how our state government works," he said. "And I got to meet the mayor and meet the commissioners and go to the jail and learn the public services of our county.

"... I really grew to respect our county government because everyone is really concerned with national government and less concerned with state government."

By the end of the month, Roller was standing in the election office.

In response to the commission's surprise at meeting such a young candidate, Roller recalls having to verify his eligibility, being only 20. While many criticize local officials, Roller believes these positions offer an enormous opportunity to better the lives of constituents.

"That's something that I value," Roller said. "It's me taking my community service and my volunteering and helping people in another level and a higher level that is way longer lasting than me just going out and serving at the food bank."

Roller has his hand in just about everything on campus, ranging from The Volunteer Channel, Student Government Association and Student Alumni Associates. He remains a member of Tennessee 4-H, now at the collegiate level, and Key Club's collegiate edition, Circle K.

SGA President-elect and TVC Executive Producer Kelsey Keny described Roller as one of the "most dedicated" people she knows.

"Ever since meeting him in class freshman year, I've always been around him through different organizations throughout the years," Keny, a junior in journalism and electronic media, said. "I don't know many people who know more about UT than Blake, he's so invested in his commitments and in UT."

Roller encouraged other students to capitalize on the small window of opportunity to run for office during college.

"If you want to run for office in college, you really only have three years," he said. "And those three years are critical because you never have those three years again.

"...Do (it) now and know that you did your best and you don't have to look back on them in the future and wish you did something."

Keny said Roller applies this mentality to all areas of his life.

"He's a fun guy who does everything he can to make the most of his four years here," Keny said. "Everything from touring old buildings before they get torn down, singing in the men's chorus, leading through several different organizations, meeting alumni and doing community service."