Messiah Williams-Cole wants to make a career in public service and he doesn’t plan to wait any longer to get started.
“I think God puts us in positions to lead,” Williams-Cole said. “I want to give back to Camp Hill.”
The 21-year-old Auburn University senior plans to run for mayor of his hometown against first-term incumbent Ezell Woodyard-Smith. Candidates register for elections July 7, ahead of the Aug. 25 municipal balloting.
Williams-Cole bounced around to different schools as a child, taking classes in Dadeville, The Alabama School of Math and Science in Mobile and Opelika High School.
“Growing up, I was really into math, but it turned out I just liked arithmetic. I hate math now,” Williams-Cole joked.
Later, at Auburn, he toyed with studying into biology, but found he didn’t care much for the chemistry requirements. He settled on an interdisciplinary major mix of political science, business and civic engagement, with minor in biology.
That decision has led him into a lot of civic volunteering opportunities while still an undergrad — Alabama Possible, National College Attainment Network, Appalachian Regional Commission, Emerge, the Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities and the Center for Educational Outreach & Engagement.
Williams-Cole said there’s a lot of help out there for a small town like Camp Hill, in which half the residents live below the federal poverty line, but that it requires writing grant applications and reaching out to government agencies and non-profits.
“I don’t think Ezell reaches out enough for help,” he said. “I think my biggest talent is that I will reach out for help.”
Williams-Coleplans to spend much of his time networking with people around town and doing public events — a monthly potluck dinner open to everyone is one of the first innovations he has planned.
He said the city needs to make better use of its website and social media. “Facebook is a really, really, really huge platform in this town when it comes to getting information,” Williams-Cole said.
The aspiring mayor isn’t worried about the job taking away from completing his studies at Auburn.
“It’s a part-time job. It was never intended to be full-time job,” he said adding that the town spends too much now on the mayor and city council members and he want to free up some of that money.
Woodyard-Smith told the Opelika-Auburn News that she plans to run for reelection in August, but she didn’t wish to comment beyond that.