For the first time in a decade, Auburn students had only one voting choice for the top three positions in the Student Government Association races.
Walker Byrd, president, Justin Mathews, vice president, and Brett Walton, treasurer, still tried to keep Auburn students informed on their platforms before being elected into office. Billboards were made, platform speeches took the place of debates and the candidates emphasized that they were there for the people.
Byrd’s slogan, “Be Heard With Byrd,” set the tone for candidates who want the student body to have a voice despite having only one person to stand behind.
Without the need to run a campaign, Byrd, Mathews and Walton were able to collaborate and work together on their plans for next year.
The following Q&A with Byrd about the election, the results and the future of Auburn SGA hint at what the future of Auburn holds.
This interview was edited for clarity
- Why did you choose to run for office?
It was a lengthy decision for me to decide to run for office. At first I was unsure about where I wanted to invest my time and effort for the next year. I spent a lot of time seeking wisdom from people I trust and people that had been in similar situations before. After a lot of prayer and self-reflection, I committed to running for office, and I am unbelievably excited. This entire time I have felt very at peace with the decision, and I am excited to have the opportunity to both make Auburn a better place and invest in students and future leaders.
- What other organizations are you involved in?
I am also involved in a social fraternity, as well as being a member of War Eagle Girls and Plainsmen.
- Why do you think there was a lack of candidates running for president, vice president and treasurer this year?
I really think this year was an anomaly. I still think people are bought into to the success and longevity of the organization. We had more minor candidates than we normally have run for positions. Some schools had two or three full tickets. That shows that people want to be involved in the Student Government Association. I don’t expect the lack of candidates to be a trend.
- What are the advantages to running unopposed?
The process was much more stress-free. Our team was able to have fun and build relationships with each other, rather than being stressed out about all the details coming together. It really was a fun process, and I am unbelievably thankful for the people that bought–in and supported me. Another advantage was that we were able to focus much more time on the platform, rather than getting caught up in the details of the campaign. I feel like that time is going to prove to be invaluable down the road.
- What are the disadvantages to running unopposed?
Like a lot of people, I enjoy competition. I would have loved to have had the chance to compete against another candidate. However, we still tried really hard to hold ourselves to the standards that we would have had if we were running a normal campaign. We owe it to the student body to reach them and make them aware of what all is happening, and I can confidently say we did that.
- What changes are you hoping to make at Auburn and why?
Auburn is truly an incredible place and probably one of the best, if not the best, student experiences in the country. There aren’t major things wrong with the university that we need to fix. However, there are small things we can do to make this a better place for students. One of those things is updating the current class registration model. The model that we currently have is dated, and could use an overhaul to come into what is now 2015. We will ensure that we voice this concern to administration and work with them to make the system better.
- How do you plan on accomplishing changes at Auburn during the one-year term?
As with any organization, it’s going to take a lot of teamwork. We want to make sure to empower students, both internal and external to the organization, to have an avenue to enact change on campus. It’s going to take a lot of effort from our whole team, but I have no doubt that we will be able to accomplish a lot and make Auburn a better place.
- What are you planning on keeping the same?
One of the best things about the Student Government Association is that the organization is very focused on the individual student. From the top down, people are focused on investing in the other individuals and continuing to build better leaders. People come out of this organization with a better sense of what leadership and having a job looks like because of the investment other people had in them. It’s really a unique thing. The same can be said for people external to the organization. While students are members of the Student Government Association, their involvement does not define who they are, and they continue to invest in friendships outside of the organization.
- How has your experience in SGA prepared you for your next position?
I have had the pleasure to be involved in SGA over the past two and half years. During that time, I have been able to watch a lot of quality leaders (such as Owen Parrish, Harrison Mills, and Logan Powell) and learn a tremendous amount from them. I’m hopeful that, between learning from those people, and learning through experiences and opportunities I have had on my own in the organization, I will be prepared to take office. This opportunity is both exciting and humbling because you realize that you get the chance to lead 25,000 students.
10. What is the legacy you hope to leave after your time in office?
This opportunity is such a platform for ministry for me. I couldn’t be more excited for the opportunities to interact with Auburn students and other members of the Auburn family. I hope that I can impact people and this campus in a positive way, both for the betterment of Auburn and the advancement of God’s kingdom.