It was just after finals last semester when senior Austin Worrell, 21, decided to run for Oxford City Council.
“There was a morning I woke up and thought ‘You know what? Let’s go for it,'” he said.
A political science major and business legal studies minor, Worrell will be the first student, at least in recent history, to run for Oxford city council.
The first inklings of Worrell’s Oxford political ambitions cropped up in conversation with friends during his freshman year, and the idea built up steam during his time at Miami.
“I think I really analyzed all the questions that were holding me back and realized they were all based purely out of fear and conjecture and assumptions.”
Four of the council’s seven seats will be up for election this November and Worrell is one of nine candidates in the running, including two incumbents: Council members Mike Smith and Edna Southard are both seeking reelection.
“Over the years a few students have pulled election petitions, but none have filed them,” said Oxford Mayor Kate Rousmaniere, commenting by email. “I think the four-year commitment is an obstacle.”
To Worrell, the four-year term that Oxford city council members serve is no obstacle. He sees it as a path for him to give back to the community that he calls home.
A week before he arrived at Miami, Worrell’s parents divorced. They moved into separate homes and told him he would have to find a way to pay for college on his own, to live on his own.
“I didn’t even have a bedroom in either of the houses, and so Oxford literally became my home,” he said. “It’s my safe space, it’s my home, it’s where I learned to become a young adult.”
If he wins election, Worrell plans work to for a local law firm after graduation in May and then apply to law school during his four-year term on the council.
During his time at Miami, Worrell has served as a senator and cabinet member in Associated Student Government, participated in Miami’s mock trial organization and completed a business internship and a law internship.
This isn’t the first time that young Ohioans have sought (or won) local public office. An Ohio University student, Austin Lucas, took a seat on Bethesda’s city council in 2015 and Luke Scott, 18 at the time, was elected to Wellston’s city council in 2010.
Despite these precedents, Worrell says he knows there is work ahead to prove he has the skills to guide the city in the face of concerns about his age or experience.
“My parents were like ‘What are you doing?’ and my grandparents still think I’m crazy,” Worrell said. “But for me, at the end of the day, this town is an incredible place. And I think I can do a lot of great work here. Even if I don’t win, I think the experience itself, the people I get to talk to, the conversations I get to start are definitely worth it.”
Though the process of running for office is daunting, Worrell hopes his youth and perspective as a student will eventually help him to act as a bridge on the council between full-time Oxford residents and the largely-seasonal student population.
“While it is scary in many ways, if there is one thing I have learned at especially here at Miami, it’s to be bold, to make those decisions,” Worrell said. “Instead of asking ‘Why not?’ ask ‘How?'”