Being from a small town in Central New York, I was delighted this weekend when, at a barbecue in Williamsburg (Brooklyn, not Colonial), I met an alderman from Ithaca, Gayraud Townsend.
What impressed me about Townsend is that he is only a year or so older than me. A Washington, DC native, he decided to run for the Common Council during his junior year at Cornell.
In an interview with the Ithaca Journal during his 2003 campaign, Townsend said, “I decided to run for council basically because I feel that students should have a voice in the community process…I've always been an activist in the community, and I saw an opportunity for me to take hold of something.”
Students and young people, just like any other group, need representatives in government to look out for their interests, but they are some of the least likely to see one of their own ranks in an elected position.
As longtime advocates of student participation in voting and government, we think it’s great to see someone like Townsend postponing his career for four years to ensure that students in Ithaca are getting a fair shake.
It is also refreshing to see a politician keep his word. Townsend promised during his campaign that he would serve out his full four-year term, despite his impending graduation in 2005. Townsend is three years in and planning to serve until the end of 2007.