Dan Clute, Citicorp Credit Services Inc.’s vice president of public affairs and Clive City Council Member, took an interest in politics at an age when his peers were years away from being politically minded. When his life gets busy, as it frequently does – balancing work, serving on the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and representing his city – Clute, 38, gets through it with fine-tuned time management and some wisdom he gleaned from studying some of the country’s most famous political leaders.

When did your interest in politics develop?

My first experience in politics would have been in 1976 when I was 10. I went door to door in my neighborhood, handing out materials that I had picked up from party headquarters. It started with a grade-school assignment to represent a political candidate and give a speech on their behalf in front of the student body. That was my first taste, and since then, I’ve always felt strongly about politics, and I always liked history, political history in particular.

You carried that interest with you when you went to college?

In 1984, I graduated from high school and went to the University of Iowa and got involved in college politics there. If you know much about the University of Iowa, it’s a fairly liberal institution. The College Republicans, especially back in the mid-1980s, was a small group.

What happened to your political involvement in the years that followed?

I graduated in 1988 and stayed on to get my MBA. I came here to Des Moines to work, and I really got more immersed in my career and that type of stuff for most of the 1990s. I wasn’t politically active during that time. It was about 1997 or 1998 when I got involved with the Bull Moose Club, a group of young, professional Republicans.

Was that a turning point for you?

It was when I got back into political involvement, and through the group, I had a chance to get to know a lot of the political figures in Central Iowa. Before long, I became heavily involved in George W. Bush’s first caucus campaign.

Was working with a campaign what planted the seed for you to run for an elected office?

Not right away. After the caucus, I kind of went back into a period of focusing on my career. You spend nights and weekends doing political stuff, and then you have to start worrying about what’s paying the bills. I had started at Citigroup in 2000, and had gone from having three employees to 55, and I had to refocus some of my energy toward that.

What made the timing right to run for city council a couple of years later?

In late 2002, a seat opened up on the Clive City Council. I had always believed strongly in public service and giving back to the community, and I thought this would be an exciting way to put everything that I had done into perspective and see what it’s like to actually serve.

What have you learned about political leaders that has shaped your beliefs?

I enjoy reading and collecting presidential biographies, and from doing this, I’ve learned a lot about how leaders in the past have given back to their communities. What’s amazing when you read any biography, whether it be about a movie star or a political leader, you realize that they are just ordinary people who did extraordinary things. It keeps you kind of humble and helps you to realize that you can do a lot in your life as well.

How does your job tie in with your interests?

Honestly, it’s a perfect tie-in. We have about 1,100 employees at this site, and we had never had a public affairs officer responsible for some of our community relations, relations with the press, with the government and with other officials. It was kind of natural for me to step into this role this summer when the position was created.

How did you choose which community groups to devote your time to?

One that I have believed in for a long time is Habitat for Humanity, and Citigroup is heavily involved in Habitat worldwide, which introduced me to some of our local Habitat people. As I got to know them and they got to know me, they asked me to serve on the board a couple of years ago. Last summer I was elected to a two-year term of vice president of the board. I will serve as president of the local board in 2006.

And JDRF, it’s an outstanding organization. The local chapter is looked at as the best chapter in the country, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Are you able to apply some of your corporate experience with directing operations for a non-profit?

As you get more involved with different things, you really sharpen your skills. You’re able to take a complex issue and try to boil it down to the essence of the issue quickly and find a solution because you don’t have a lot of time to spend on it. You just become a better time manager. Working with Habitat, it’s really, in a sense, like running your own business. It’s really exciting to come up with a strategy and watch it unfold for the betterment of the group.

Do you feel that leadership opportunities such as these are underutilized?

There are so many not-for-profits out there that can use young minds and young leadership. If you were in the business world, it would probably take quite a few years before you were at a senior level to be able to do what you can do in a non-profit and help your community at the same time.