As 2014 dawned, Howard Wiggs, Florida Southern College alumnus and current member of the board of trustees, was sworn in as the new mayor of Lakeland. Among the attendees was Wesley Davis, a junior political science major at FSC, and Wigg’s deputy campaign manager.
Davis was one of seven FSC students who interned with Wiggs’s campaign.
“Howard was looking for someone, kind of like a fresh face to put on his campaign,” Davis said. “So he came to the school and he had asked Dr. Anderson [professor of political science] and a couple of other professors if they knew anyone that had campaign experience that could help out, and I just jumped in.”
In the past Davis has interned with Congressman Bill Posey in Washington and the College Republican National Committee in California.
For Wiggs’s campaign against former mayor Gow Fields, Davis was in charge of the interns and volunteers.
“We could not have done it without our volunteers,” Davis said.
Davis also coordinated fundraisers, meet and greets, handled radio and television stations, wrote press releases and worked with social media.
Many volunteers came from Southeastern, Polk State and FSC.
“It was pretty much an opportune time because it was an off-year election so people, students from Southeastern, students from Florida Southern and Polk State that wanted to get involved with politics, it gave them the opportunity to kind of get their feet wet,” Davis said.
Students played a role in the election outside of the campaign though. During a debate at Southeastern in October, Davis said that he believed Wiggs gained a lot of “traction” in emphasizing that “students should have a seat at the table.”
Alex Charwin, a junior advertising and public relations major, also helped with the campaign. However, his time there was about more than just volunteering for Wiggs.
“My friend Wes Davis was the deputy campaign manager, so I kind of did some work with him to help the campaign as well as working on a community service project,” Charwin said. “So I used that connection to try and see if he [Wiggs] would embrace my project.”
The project is patterned after Feed the Bay, only the project would take place in Lakeland. Charwin said that Wiggs gave him contact information if he needed help.
“He was definitely very interested in what I had to say,” Charwin said.
On his campaign page, Wiggs said that he would “strongly support business as a matter of city policy” so that Lakeland will become an attractive place to live and work.
This may make it easier for students to find local jobs after graduation.
“I will never forget the quote that Howard said, first time I ever met him, is that he does not want Lakeland’s largest export to be the young people,” Davis said.
During the last few days of the campaign, interns, volunteers and staff came together as events began piling up.
“It was definitely an uphill battle,” Davis said. “There were a lot of times when we thought there was no way we could win this.”
Towards the end of the campaign, polling by the FSC political science department showed that Gow and Wiggs were in a tight race.
“It kind of just helped put a fire underneath us,” Davis said.
Once the votes were in Wiggs was declared the victor and officially sworn in on Jan. 6. According to “The Ledger,” Wiggs will only be able to serve as mayor for a four-year term due to term restrictions.
See “Wiggs” Page 2
Photo courtesy of Wesley Davis