During his three years as president of the Young Democrats of America, Rod Snyder traveled to Egypt, served as a board member for the American Council of Young Political Leaders, and campaigned for President Obama.
But he still had some unfinished business before he handed over YDA's reins on Sunday. So, in one of his final e-mails to the organization's more than 150,000 members last week, Snyder announced he is gay.
"I just realized later in life looking back, if I hadn't taken that opportunity, … I think some day I would have regretted that," Snyder said. He added that he thought announcing while he was still with YDA made it "more impactful." "I also thought it was important to have a West Virginian stand up and say, ' … We have a lot of work to do on this.' "
Snyder, 33, said that coming to terms with his sexuality and deciding to go public about it has been "a long, long process," but he said his father, West Virginia state Sen. Herb Snyder, is a "longtime advocate for LGBT rights," which made the step easier for him.
Snyder said the e-mail marks the first time he has publicly come out. "My family has been aware for about a year," he said, adding that he has also told his closest circle of friends.
Although Snyder doesn't have any immediate plans to do LGBT advocacy, he expects opportunities to come up in the future. And Snyder, who has nine siblings, said that one of his sisters has become involved with LGBT advocacy since he came out to his family. Snyder called it "a show of support from her that I couldn't have expected."
Snyder now works as the public policy director for the National Corn Growers Association and has been involved in agriculture policy in Washington since 2002—a natural fit for him, as his mother's family is made up of dairy farmers. He commutes daily to the city from his home in Shenandoah Junction, W.Va.
In 2004, Snyder followed in his father's footsteps by making his own official foray into politics, but he lost his bid for the West Virginia House of Delegates. He was also named as a possible Democratic candidate for West Virginia's 2nd Congressional District seat, which will be open with Rep. Shelley Moore Capito running for the Senate in 2014. But Snyder ruled out a House bid, saying that he "was a little concerned" about being able to "overcome some negatives" as a national-level Democrat in a conservative state like West Virginia, where Obama won less than 36 percent of the vote last year.
Snyder was elected as YDA president in July 2010, after working his way up as president of the West Virginia Young Democrats from 2007 to 2009 and serving as director of YDA's mid-Atlantic region. Snyder said when he became president, it was "on the tail end of a pretty significant economic downturn," and funding had "dried up significantly." Now YDA is back in the black, after being about $300,000 in debt. The group helps promote youth voting across the country, and $300,000 can be a year's operating budget, Snyder said.
"We basically had to raise money to keep the lights on while also paying down the past debt," he said.
But Snyder has another strong interest outside of politics: He describes himself, in the same e-mail that caught so much attention last week, as a "singer-songwriter." He even auditioned for American Idol in August 2004 in Washington, making it to the "Hollywood Round," which included a trip to Los Angeles. He went on to release a self-published pop album, titled "Leaving Hollywood Behind," in July 2006. But Snyder, who has been singing since he was a child, said that his focus remains on politics. "Even with American Idol, it was very much in the middle of my career stuff."
This article appears in the August 14, 2013, edition of NJ Daily.