Mayor Ling takes questions from students

When Mayor Kathy Ling moved to Mount Pleasant in 1971, she expected to stay in for about three years.

“Within three years, I had gotten involved in local government. We’ve never really wanted to leave,” said Ling. “In fact, (my husband and I) both retired now and still are here because we really love living in Mount Pleasant. And part of that is because you can be very involved in the local community.”

Ling was the guest of an event organized by the national political science honors society, Pi Sigma Alpha. The event was held in Anspach Hall. Twenty-six attendees braved the snow to listen to the mayor speak and ask her questions.

The event centered on the importance of local government and the relationship between Mount Pleasant residents and students. Ling went over the joys and complexities involved in making decisions to manage and improve a city.

One of the discussions was about what it takes to improve the ability to get around the city on foot and bike.

Senior Donovan Watts said small examples like that show how local government decisions have tangible effects on life.

“I found the conversation very engaging,” he said. “A lot of students walk and it’s a concern of mine because I walk to a lot of places. It’s important to me that I feel safe when I cross an intersection.”

Another issues addressed was about concerns that the local government might express an unfavorable tone when speaking about students.

“Sometimes you hear things and want to say: ‘Don’t group all the students together.’ We’re not talking about all students, we're talking about partiers. There is a big difference between a student and a partier," Ling said. 

The mayor expressed an interest in seeing the formation of a Neighborhood Advisory Council. Ling said it would comprise of the Neighborhood Resource Unit, students and non-student residents. The local Code Enforcement and law enforcement make up the Neighborhood Resource Unit.

“If we have a Neighborhood Advisory Council we would have both students and non-student residents who would meet periodically and address how things are going.”

Despite some of the tension that exists between residents and students, the mayor said she is happy to live and serve in the Mount Pleasant with the university.

“For the most part, having the university and the students is one of the best things about Mount Pleasant,” she said. "The student population provides an energy to the community. This town is what it is because the university. There is just no question that the students and the university being here is a tremendous asset.”

Voting in local elections is a way of making student voices heard, Ling said.

“If you are concerned about the way in which the police are doing their job, one way to have an influence on that is find out who’s running, what they think about it and then vote for those people that have policies you think are appropriate for a university community," the mayor said. “The voting makes a huge difference.”

Watts is also the president of Pi Sigma Alpha. Watts said listening to the mayor was a reminder of the significance of the local government and how important it is to vote.

“If you have an issue, vote. If you want a change, vote. That’s the key to everything. Plus, it’s our right to vote," he said.