Scott Foster ’10 wants to be your city councilman.
By “your,” he means everybody. Students, professors, retirees, long-term residents, city officials. Pretty much anyone who will listen.
“Williamsburg is a unique place,” Foster said. “And I’m getting acclimated to that political atmosphere.”
It’s an atmosphere that is dominated, at least on campus, by town-gown relations. One of Foster’s top priorities, if he were to be elected to the council, would be improving the at-times tenuous relationship between the city and the College of William and Mary.
“Having the College directly involved in helping solve city issues is a first step,” he said. “My presence on the council would give the city a high level of connectivity.”
The need to find and build a cooperative relationship between city residents and the College has become the mantra for city officials, politicians, college officials and student leaders in recent years. In a statement explaining her decision not to seek reelection, Mayor Jeanne Zeidler M.A. ’76 said that improving town-gown relations was one of the proudest accomplishments and greatest struggles of her time on the council.
“We’ve got to work on that neighborhood connection,” Foster said. “Reminding students that they are living in a neighborhood, with neighbors, and [that] it would be in their best interest to get to know [the neighbors] … Giving some direction there would be a great move for the College.”
According to Foster, one way the College can take the first step is by dedicating some of its student orientation resources into preparing students for living off campus. As students become more accustomed to living in single-family communities, some of the tension that has accompanied city debates over zoning and housing may subside.
Recently, the council approved an amended version of a controversial zoning ordinance that would allow no more than four unrelated individuals to share a housing unit if their home is approved by the zoning administrator, and issued a special use permit. The amended ordinance was the product of years of negotiations between city officials, the College and student leaders.
“I was really impressed how the city council [looked at] that three-to-four person issue through the special use permit system,” Foster said. “If that’s successful … if it’s working well, we’ll move forward. If not, we’ll have to come up with something different.”
As the campaign progresses, Foster said he expects to continue developing his contacts within the city to learn more about the issues that will be arising in the campaign.
“City employees have been a huge resource as far as information goes,” he said. “That we’ve reached out to those people early … that sets us apart from past student candidates.”
The last student to run for city council was former Student Assembly Sen. Matt Beato ’09. Although Foster said he has never met Beato, his campaign includes several students who participated in Beato’s failed run for a council seat in 2008.
Foster is quick to point out that the SA cannot take an official stance on his campaign, and that although he considers some members of the SA to be resources, his campaign staff is made up of city residents, non students and students from several different organizations.
“This campaign is made up from a diverse group of people. A lot of SA folks, as well as a lot of people from the student body and the community,” he said. “If you have a diverse and broad group of supporters, which is indicated by a broad group of [donors], your group grows.”
Foster’s campaign has already raised over $6,000 from over 40 donors. Former SA Secretary of Finance Andrew Blasi ’10 is running the campaign’s fundraising efforts.
Other staffers include Managing Director of Students for a Better Williamsburg Josh Karp ’11, SA Undersecretary of Public Affairs to Williamsburg Emily Gottschalk-Marconi ’11, SA Sen. Ross Gillingham ’10 and Student Conduct Council member Ayana Russell ’10. Foster says the campaign is being supported by government professor Clay Clemens ’80 and SA President Sara Rojas ’10, although strictly from an advisory capacity. Foster is serving as his own campaign manager.
“We’ve raised a lot of money in a short amount of time, and I think it’s from broad excitement,” Foster said.
The campaign will be holding a fundraiser with College alumni in Washington, D.C. in the near future, as well as hosting a barbecue scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 13.
According to Scott Foster for Williamsburg Communications Director Erik Houser ’10, the campaign will also be releasing merchandise in the coming weeks to increase Foster’s visibility on campus and around the city.
Win or lose, Foster said he will be staying in Williamsburg for at least the foreseeable future. He plans on applying to the Marshall-Wythe School of Law for the 2011-12 academic year.