Graduate student announces City Council candidacy
Tense University-Charlottesville relations prompt Adam Lees to get involved in local politics
Graduate Arts & Sciences student Adam Lees has announced he is intending to run for a seat on the Charlottesville City Council this November to improve the University’s relationship with the community and better represent students in City Hall.
Lees, who is in the process of filing paperwork to run in the Democratic primary this June, said he decided to run when conversations with fellow students raised concerns about towing, parking and noise ordinances.
“It just built this impression that town-Grounds relations were at a real low and that there were several parts of the city where students were completely ignored and taken for granted, if not preyed on,” Lees said.
Lees said if elected he would work hard to be engaged with University students and voice their concerns on council. “I would try in a sense to hold office hours, to bring City Council to the students where students can come talk to me about issues going on in Charlottesville and the city can engage the students directly and get their feedback,” he said.
But Lees wouldn’t just focus on students from the University. He has also proposed creating an apprenticeship program to tackle youth unemployment. The program would connect both high school students and youth in Charlottesville with an employer under whom they would complete hands-on job training. The students would attend a local technical school or community college funded by redirecting some funds in the city’s education budget.
“By the time they leave, they have an education, they have a job, and they have no debt,” Lees said. ”Even more so, when they graduate, these jobs are here, so the investment will come straight back to us.”
Lees also hopes to make public transit more efficient through evaluating bus routes, increasing the number of bike paths and improving sidewalks. “We really need to think about expanding service,” Lees said. “When you have to walk everywhere, you realize where the sidewalk stops.”
Jim Nix, co-chair of the Charlottesville Democratic Committee, said he encourages student interest in council and would welcome a University student as a candidate.
“Having a student as a serious candidate might help to change [low voter turnout in local elections],” Nix said. “The students are a vital part of this community and we welcome their participation in local politics.”
Candidates must be nominated via the June 11 primary election to run in the general election. Filing for the primary election requires obtaining 125 signatures of registered Charlottesville voters, paying a small fee and completing several forms.
“[I look forward] to represent[ing] the students in the city, showing everyone that U.Va. students are a positive contribution to Charlottesville and helping the city and University community engage better together,” he said.
Lees is currently completing his master’s degree in foreign affairs and is a teaching assistant in the Department of Politics. He also serves as the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ representative to Student Council.