Columbia’s newest City Council candidate will be running his campaign out of a dorm room. MU freshman Greg Pierson has turned in a petition to run for the First Ward council position.
The election will be April 7, and the winner will take over for current councilman Clyde Ruffin, who recently announced that he will not seek reelection.
Pierson hopes his campaign can encourage students to get more involved in politics and government and help improve the relationship between students and the community.
He said he plans to run a nonpartisan campaign and to focus on issues that affect students such as public transportation and affordable housing. He also wants to address gun violence, an issue he said has begun to hit close to home for students since Columbia College student Nadria Wright was killed in September.
A big part of his campaign will be registering students to vote. To run for Columbia City Council, a candidate must collect at least 50 signatures from registered voters in the ward they are seeking to represent. Of the 60 signatures Pierson submitted to the city clerk, 49 were from newly registered student voters.
Pierson, who moved to Columbia from Clayton in August, studies business marketing and political science. On campus, he is involved in the Cornell Leadership Program in the Trulaske School of Business and the Associated Students of the University of Missouri.He is also a founding member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity.
Students running for City Council is not entirely unprecedented. Three MU students — Chad Phillips, Jake Loft and Nate Brown — ran for the First Ward seat in 2015 while Columbia native and MU student Andrew Hutchinson ran in 2017.
When asked how he plans on getting in touch with nonstudent communities in Columbia, Pierson said that he plans to set up meetings with community leaders and others who could help him understand the issues in the community.
“I think there’s lots of opportunities for me to get engaged with the people that are living here and the people that are working here and the people that are leading the city,” he said.
At just 18 years old, Pierson would be easily the youngest member of the council.
He believes, however, he has the experience to fulfill the duties of the office. That experience includes working on political campaigns for politicians such as Claire McCaskill and Cort VanOstran. He also serves as a senator for the Missouri Students Association, MU’s student body government.
His opponent, however, has quite a bit of experience in actual city government.
Pierson is the second person to join the race. In April, he’ll go up against Pat Fowler, the chairperson of Columbia’s Historic Preservation Commission and a longtime player in Columbia city politics.
Pierson has a lot of admiration and respect for his opponent. He said that he has already been in contact with her and looks forward to working with her in the next few months.
“I think Pat Fowler is a tremendous public servant in her work in Columbia already,” Pierson said. “I think she is a great candidate and very qualified for this seat.”
Pierson plans to differ from her campaign by emphasizing students.
“This is a learning experience for me,” Pierson said.
Supervising editor is Fred Anklam Jr.