Student Congress retention rates show that since McClelland came to UNC, no more than 10 people have returned to Congress for a second term, according to an analysis by The Daily Tar Heel. The rate from last year was the lowest yet, with only six representatives returning with any experience.
McClelland, a political science and history double major, first ran for Congress for a special election seat as a freshman in fall 2011 and lost to former speaker Connor Brady.
McClelland then ran for general election during the second semester of his freshman year. He was elected to represent North Campus, which he did for two years.
When he joined Congress, he didn’t just dip his feet in campus politics — he dove.
“We completely rewrote the Student Constitution because it was just a mess,” McClelland said.
McClelland said he worked on making necessary changes to the Student Constitution with the members of the Rules & Judiciary Committee during his first year in Congress. The changes were approved in February 2013.
This year, he is speaker pro tempore and represents the off-campus district.
It’s uncommon for undergraduates to serve in Student Congress for all four years. Only four representatives from the 2013-14 academic year returned for the 2014-15 year.
Student government is a nonpartisan organization, but McClelland is also the executive director for the N.C. Federation of College Republicans.
“He doesn’t go into Congress with his own opinions and his own ideas and only focuses on those,” Speaker Ivy Hardy said. “But he takes everybody’s ideas into account, and he does his research. When he goes into Student Congress, he goes in with a clear mind and an open mind. He’s more concerned about finding solutions than about getting his own way.”
Hardy said McClelland isn’t always caught up in work and enjoys decompressing.
“Peter and I, we have this thing where after every meeting we go out with a group and get drinks,” Hardy said.
“One of our favorite pastimes afterwards is to go to Linda’s, get chili-cheese fries and sing Taylor Swift at the top of our lungs.”
McClelland is also a member of Log Cabin Republicans — an advocacy group that works for equality for gay and lesbian Republicans. McClelland is working with a lawyer in Charlotte to bring a chapter of the group to North Carolina.
“Being a gay Republican comes with its fair share of challenges,” said Kevan Schoonover, McClelland’s fiance. “But he is able to stand his ground, stick to his principles and work through everything that life throws at him.”
McClelland said he hopes to go to graduate school for his MBA and his juris doctor after he graduates in May. After that, he plans to move to New Hampshire to start a family and work at a consulting firm.