Maxim Abduhalikov ’23 contributes to future city planning through Williamsburg city manager internship

MAXIM ABDUHALIKOV // COURTESY PHOTO

In the spring of 2022, Maxim Abduhalikov ’23 scrolled through the Tribe Careers website to find a summer opportunity. A listing to be a city manager intern with the City of Williamsburg piqued his interest. Growing up in a family of Peace Corps volunteers, the chance to spend his summer working closely with community development and public service heavily stood out. 

“This internship was probably the best internship I could’ve asked for. If I had written an internship for myself, it probably would have been this,” Abduhalikov said.

During his internship, Abduhalikov was able to work closely with a number of different divisions, including the Finance Department, Planning Department, Williamsburg City Fire Department, Williamsburg Police Department and the Parks and Recreation Department. Every week, Abduhalikov would be placed with a different office in order to learn about city operations and various initiatives for the future. 

Out of all of his experiences, Abduhalikov mentioned that the Williamsburg Planning Department was the most interesting due to his interest in city and urban planning. As a potential career path for him, the department provided him with the opportunity to envision plans for the future of Williamsburg, as well as how the organization of the city could be impacted in upcoming years. 

“Every department had their own fun,” Abduhalikov said. “I remember when I was with the department for Parks and Recreation, Waller Mill Park in Williamsburg has a big lake on it. So I got to go and they just spent a morning taking me out on a boat. We just kind of explored the area and that was part of the internship.”

Another interesting moment for him was when he was invited by the Williamsburg Police Department and Williamsburg City Fire Department to participate in a ride along as well as a fire department workout. 

“It was fun, but it was probably the hardest workout I’ve ever done,” Abduhalikov said. 

In terms of initiatives, Abduhalikov was able to contribute to future city planning through his summer intern project focused on creating a comprehensive proposal to make slow moving vehicles, like golf carts, street legal in Williamsburg. A relatively new idea, Abduhalikov was able to research golf cart communities in Southern states, as well as analyze safety concerns such as stop sign and light compliance, drunk driving, illegal parking and vehicle registration. 

“It’s a pretty progressive initiative that I was surprised to hear about. But I was happy to work on a project for them to think about that for the city,” Abduhalikov said. 

Abduhalikov’s project could potentially be used in future policy, something that stands out to him as he finishes his undergraduate degree in economics. As a full-time student, having the opportunity to make an impact on real policy changes was something he had never experienced before this past summer. 

“When I was doing my research, there’s going to be someone out there who’s actually affected by this if my plan works, if it’s a good plan. So it made me motivated to be very nitpicky,” Abduhalikov said. “I feel like the work I did for the city might have been better than some of my schoolwork. Just because the aspect of having it affect a real person just made me more conscious of my research and what I was writing.”

MAXIM ABDUHALIKOV // COURTESY PHOTO

When working on his project, he mentioned working with various city officials in order to discuss where the city was ranking within certain aspects of city planning. Abduhalikov found that many people working for the City of Williamsburg were incredibly passionate about making the city a better place, as well as displaying a certain level of consciousness when it came to introducing improvements. 

“I feel like there’s just a level of innovation within the city of Williamsburg that I feel like I don’t see in other places. It’s something that I really appreciate because I’m excited to come back and visit fifteen years down the line to see if Williamsburg is more walkable, or if I see golf carts around,” Abduhalikov said. 

Another aspect of his internship that stood out to him was his work with the Public Works Department – assisting with sewer repairs and building a retaining wall. Abduhalikov mentioned that growing up, he commonly helped his father with building and repairs around the house. Though many of the concerns and restoration work he faced were entirely new to him, it was nostalgic to feel as if his experiences as a child were being put to use during his internship.

Along with this, working within various departments exposed Abduhalikov to many advantageous policies and requirements put in place by the city that may not be as known to members of the public. For example, Abduhalikov is now more passionate about teaching his friends and fellow students about zoning ordinances and renters codes. 

“One thing that I learned that I would definitely advocate to the William and Mary community is that a lot of times it feels like landlords will have a leg up on students,” Abduhalikov said. “I was prepared to sign an unfair lease. But one thing I learned through the city, I drove around with the housing inspector one time and he gave me this sheet of Virginia renters codes or something. Basically it laid out all the things that, if you were renting something and so-and-so is not in order or correct, then by law your landlord has to fix it.” 

Abduhalikov mentioned that the Williamsburg community, especially students, could benefit from knowing more about student living conditions and renting requirements. He believes the city could be more transparent about housing rules, rights and regulations, however he recognizes that it has been passionate about introducing new initiatives to help students and community members. For example, Director of Planning and Codes Compliance Tevya Griffin is in the process of interviewing students to introduce a program that would make these regulations more accessible and transparent. 

Outside of his summer internship with the city, Abduhalikov is involved with club soccer and the Russian language community at the College. As his father is originally from Kazakhstan, the community of Russian speakers at the College has given him the opportunity to meet some of his closest friends.  

After graduation, Abduhalikov plans to follow in his parents footsteps and join the Peace Corps and eventually get his master’s degree in public administration or a related field. His current goal is to eventually get involved with local government or work for aa non-governmental organization. 

“At the end of the day, I’m working somewhere where the community is prioritized and I know people in my community,” Abduhalikov said. “I like the sense of community that Williamsburg has, and if I could work in an area where that sense of community is similar, that would be pretty cool.” 

Abduhalikov commented that his experience as a City Manager Intern is an opportunity that could benefit most people, and that he recommends the internship to anyone, especially if you plan on a career path in government or enjoy being outside and busy. 

His advice to College students as he enters his senior year is to take a moment to slow down and stay patient as opportunities come your way. 

“I feel like we as a school have somewhat of a reputation for being maybe a little bit uptight sometimes. And I definitely felt that for myself,” Abduhalikov said. “You don’t have to be stressed all the time about getting an internship or doing the next research project. That will come, as a William and Mary student, it’s a good school to go to, we’re all here for a reason.”

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Emma Henry
Emma Henry is a freshman from Wallingford, PA. She is currently undecided in terms of major, but is interested in environmental science and conservation. She joined The Flat Hat in the fall of 2021 as a news intern, and is excited to be moving into a new role! Outside of the newspaper, Emma is involved with Dining Sustainability, Shotokan Karate Club, and Williamsburg Sunrise. In her free time you can find her out hiking or curled up in Swem with a good book.

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