During his freshman year in 1998, Justin Fleshman wrote a paper for intro to political science on how a Lawrence student could run for city council. Three years later, Fleshman is seizing a rare opportunity to put an academic idea into practice, by running for the Appleton Common Council’s District 2 seat.With a residency challenge behind him, Fleshman is on the ballot and set to begin active campaigning for the Feb. 19 primary. The campus is split into two aldermanic districts: 1, and 2. Among other campus buildings, Sage, Trever, the new Executive buildings, the quad and the small houses are in District 2.
Fleshman will be focusing his campaign primarily on the Lawrence campus—no surprise there. His reasoning is that Lawrentians compile nearly one-fifth of District 2 voters. Lawrentians deserve a voice on the council, he contends, which is not to say that his is necessarily going to be that voice. Liberal arts students’ diversity of opinion seems to be both a strength and a challenge that Fleshman faces.
“A lot of the students I’ve reached through word of mouth are really excited that someone from Lawrence is running,” he said. “Others are excited too, but want more issues.” The mere novelty of a Lawrence campaign won’t do it alone, in other words.
Fleshman made the case for his candidacy by claiming that the University and the city could have a “mutually beneficial relationship”—if they chose to. Fleshman wants to facilitate that relationship, also working closely with LUCC leadership.
More importantly, Fleshman feels students are getting slighted by low-profile “alderpersons.” After he filed for candidacy, District 2 Alderperson Helen Nager challenged Fleshman’s residency. Indeed, the Monroe, Michigan native will have to make the case that he is not an opportunist (at best) or a “carpetbagger” (at worst). Fleshman, however, has lived here for the past two summers and “at least 33 weeks each year.” He claims that the residency challenge is indicative of some sort of alderpersonic neglect.
But on to the issues. What are they? Parking, for one. Although the city’s parking garages recently cut a deal for Lawrence students, he doesn’t feel it does enough. Fleshman is quick to support LUCC presidential candidate Cole Delaney’s ideas on parking. Not only that, but, he says in the same breath, Malika Chatterji’s ideas on compost, gardening, and energy are “great ideas for the whole community to embrace.” Lest he appear to be lending lip service to either LUCC candidate, in all fairness, he is pursuing a double degree in Government and Environmental science.
Fleshman has a tough road ahead. He must convince Lawrence students that he accurately speaks for them, convince those students (the ones who live in District 2, at least) to get out to vote, and convince a decent number of citizens in the surrounding community that a student will look out for their interests, too.
Then, of course, there are the perils of asking for his professors’ votes. “Once I start knocking on doors, I think it is going to be fun to ask for their vote. Then again, I’m so afraid that they’ll say ‘But you did horrible on your last paper!’