Vice President for Development, University of Charleston, Charleston, 30
On his first paying job:
"I was a lifeguard at the Cross Lanes pool, and it was the best job in the world. I did it all through high school and one year in college, and I was assistant swim coach, so I still have so many connections there. I have kids who are not kids anymore who come up to me and say ‘Hey, Coach Beakes.'"
Ben Beakes is a good example of how several roads can lead to happiness.
"Politics was good to me. I grew up real quick," Beakes said. "But leaving politics was a good thing for me as well.
"And I tell people ‘That Capitol's not going away, I can always go back.'"
Beakes has had an impressive resume for years. He graduated early from the University of Charleston with a degree in political science. At age 21 he became the political director of the West Virginia Republican Party, and at age 23 he was chief of staff for West Virginia Secretary of State Betty Ireland. He also was the state director of the McCain for President Campaign in 2008.
"I truly feel the Lord has laid out a plan for my life, as he does for everybody," Beakes said. "I've been humbled by every opportunity that's come my way."
Beakes said he knew the long hours and the stress that came from working in politics would keep him from the family life he knew he wanted with his wife and children.
"I've thoroughly enjoyed working at the University of Charleston, and serving at my alma mater, it's something I never dreamed of," he said. "I was fortunate enough to have opportunities here, and I took advantage of that. I'm just happy to live and work and raise my family where I grew up."
Beakes said his family is his biggest accomplishment, and said his wife, who stays at home with their two children, has the more important job. But he said he is also proud of compliments he received while working for Ireland from Democratic leaders who said he did a great job of running the Republican Ireland's legislative agenda.
"As a student, Ben Beakes stood out as particularly talented, resourceful and dedicated," said University of Charleston President Ed Welch. "His success in government, business and higher education has been exemplary. He has already left his imprint on West Virginia and his alma mater."