Campaigning to help homeless: Caleb Rogers runs for City Council

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Caleb Rogers '20 is currently campaigning for Williamsburg City Council. COURTESY PHOTO / CALEB ROGERS

Most College seniors are neck-deep in job applications or graduate school decisions, but for Caleb Rogers ’20, his free-time is filled with campaigning. Rogers, a College of William and Mary public policy major and a history minor, is currently running for a position on the Williamsburg City Council, leaving him quite busy this spring semester.  

“I am someone who enjoys learning extracurricularly, so I enjoyed my classes and my public policy major, but one of the fun things is finding ways to learn outside of it as well,” Rogers said. “I applied to the economic development internship to get more involved with the city, and spent the summer researching particular economic areas around the city and what can be improved upon.” 

“I am someone who enjoys learning extracurricularly, so I enjoyed my classes and my public policy major, but one of the fun things is finding ways to learn outside of it as well,” Rogers said. “I applied to the economic development internship to get more involved with the city, and spent the summer researching particular economic areas around the city and what can be improved upon.”

“We have a lot of ideas, and we condensed them into three watchwords: the opportunities for Williamsburg to diversify their economy, the responsibilities Williamsburg should have to look after their undervalued community members, and there are the accountabilities of which Williamsburg should keep accountable,” Rogers said. 

The first umbrella to Rogers’ campaign, opportunity, focuses on economic diversity in Williamsburg. He wants to find ways to encourage alumni to build careers in the city after graduation and educate others on the amount of job opportunities there are in the area. 

“I wanted to create something that would encourage young students to have an internship here or have a job after graduation or for young professionals in the community to engage as well,” Rogers said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be just William and Mary students. One of the things we are running on is the creation of a job fair that would be basically for the Virginia peninsula in Williamsburg for William and Mary students. This would be a good way to encourage people to stay here or have a job over the summer or start a career here after they graduate.” 

Through community service endeavors on campus, Rogers was able to be a part of groups that focus on regional poverty and homelessness. This created his second key umbrella term: responsibility. Like his public speaking course, Rogers drew inspiration from his years at the College to shape his campaign.  

“On the council, I want to create some kind of Virginia peninsula study group that would work with the other two localities to figure out what are the migratory patterns of the homeless population, and how do these people live, and where do they live, and ultimately what are resources we can end up providing them, which we are not yet doing,” Rogers said.  

Rogers explains that it is difficult for the city, labeled as a place of tourism, to be frank about communities they should be addressing. He believes it is the duty of city counselors to address that. In addition to the study group, Rogers wants to model city plans after successful plans exhibited by the College.  

“The creation of a climate action plan modeled after the great work William and Mary is doing right now with their own climate action plan is something the city will really benefit from,” Rogers said. “If the colonial capital can mark itself out as an eco-friendly town, what other cities and localities across Virginia and the country can?” 

The last umbrella term, accountability, is especially important to Rogers. He believes there are two parts — being held accountable as a community and being held individually accountable.  

An example of a group being held accountable in the community is the off-campus landlords.  

“There are some wonderful landlords in the city, and there are some that are a bit more predatory,” Rogers said. “Some ways that they can become a resource for students is to check these groups rather than have them be a group that is seen just to make sure you don’t have four more people in your house.” 

As an individual, Rogers explained that as a city council member he will do everything in his power to be in touch with the public, such as holding regular office hours, maintaining a website and providing contact information.  

“The ultimate message of our campaign is not to immediately change a bunch of things in the city,” Rogers said. “What makes Williamsburg enticing is the quaint historic nature of the city, and we want to make sure to protect that while also addressing some things that should change. As a student in a city in which the population is 60 percent students, I think it is important to have that younger voice on council as being nearer to the community.”  

In the end, Rogers is enthusiastic about running for office and is thankful for his time at the College.  

“William and Mary promotes civic engagement over everything else, and I feel the empathetic spirit of the students really shining through, and that has my heart strings, you might say,” Rogers said. 

Additionally, Rogers emphasizes the importance of exercising the gifts students at the College haves to not only to vote, but also to make a larger impact in the community.  

“We as William and Mary students, despite the very heavy workload, are honestly given a great fortune by coming here and because of that great fortune, should then use it and the resources we are given toward helping communities that might not have those resources themselves,” Rogers said. “There are a plethora of ways to help and it starts with researching and engaging with the community. Be curious, but also realize that you have a debt to pay.”