It has been a long time since West Virginia University has had one of their own students run for Morgantown City Council but one Student Government Association executive member is changing that this year.
The graduate student running for Morgantown City Council’s third ward is Nelson France, a second-year student in the Masters of Public Administration program who will be graduating in May. France is currently serving as the liaison to city council in SGA, as well as the chair of the newly formed Community Relations Team.
France said the decision to run for city council was not an easy one, and was persuaded by family, friends, community activists and business leaders.
“Everyone that spoke to me said, ‘you should really consider this, there is nobody more qualified to represent the third ward than you,’ and I listened to their comments,” France said. “I did not jump to any conclusions; it took time and prayer for me to realize that this is what I wanted to do. The decision did not happen overnight, I’ve been considering it for a couple of months.”
Current city council member Charlie Byrer is not seeking re-election, which served as an additional catalyst to pursue office, France said.
Ron Justice, director of Student Organizations Services at WVU and former mayor of Morgantown, says that he cannot recall the last time a student ran for council.
“I think it is wonderful that students want to be engaged in the community, and even better that they want to make Morgantown the place they choose to live,” Justice said.
France says his executive position in SGA has allowed him the opportunity to bridge the gap between residents and students.
“The relationship between SGA and City Council today is closer than it has ever been,” France said. “My number one priority has been improving that, and the purpose of the Community Relations Team is to continue to build this by sending students to every committee and neighborhood association to simply listen and learn.”
The candidate elected to city council will take office in July.
“Although I’m running my campaign as a student, I wouldn’t take office until I was a young professional, if elected,” France said. “I’m 24 years old, meaning that I would be the youngest person to hold Morgantown City Council if I’m elected, though I don’t think age should be a factor or an issue on the minds of voters.”
Wesley Nugent, a professional technologist in the WVU Extension Service, is France’s opponent in the election.
The third ward of City Council represents downtown, a portion of Sunnyside, and the Wiles Hill-Highland Park neighborhood.
For more information or to contact France, visit http://nelsonfrance.com.
CONTACT: University Relations/News