That’s all the time Undergraduate Student Government President Taylor Stepp and his administration have left to prepare Celia Wright and Leah Lacure for assuming control of an entity that had a budget of about $200,000 for the first two quarters of fiscal year 2013.
Wright and Lacure, third-years in public health and public affairs, respectively, earned 3,953 votes (40.4 percent of votes cast) during the USG election held earlier this month. They are set to officially assume the office of USG president and vice president during an inauguration ceremony March 26.
Wright and Lacure beat five other tickets competing in the election, including a campaign headed by current USG Vice President Josh Ahart. Ahart and his runningmate Jen Tripi came in second, garnering 31.9 percent of votes cast with a final tally of 3,127.
Now that the election is over, Ahart and Wright are working together to make the transition as smooth as possible, and both sides said there are no hard feelings.
“Celia and I are friends, we’ve worked together for a long time now. Campaigns are just campaigns. Nothing’s personal,” Ahart, a fourth-year in public affairs, said Sunday.
Stepp met personally with Wright March 7 – the day after the results were announced – to begin the transition process. He said she made it clear from the beginning that “the election was over and in the past.”
“She just wanted to start getting work done and we just wanted to start helping her take control,” he said.
Wright said one of her team’s first planned moves is to figure out a structure for leadership.
“We will open a cabinet application process soon and have people start applying to directorships and cabinet positions,” Wright said. These positions include a chief of staff, internal affairs director, public relations director and director to the senior staff, among others.
Ahart, Lacure, Stepp and Wright all said it’s important to foster student interest in USG during the transition period, especially after an election that saw the largest number of votes cast since 1972. Lacure and Wright hope to do this by increasing the diversity and involvement of student leaders.
“We’ve made an effort to look as far as we can for leadership and senate positions from student groups,” Lacure said. This means appointing students from more than just the public affairs and political science majors, she said, because she had noticed in the past a lot of people involved in USG were coming from similar backgrounds.
Lacure added that conversing with multicultural students and leaders from a variety of student groups could lead to broader and deeper involvement in USG for all students.
“As a member of USG, I’ve seen an issue with the senate being very homogeneous in terms of what students are involved in and what their interests are,” Wright said. “Encouraging those people beyond senate to get involved is our current goal.”
Stepp, a graduating fourth-year in public affairs, said he is pleased with what he has accomplished as USG president but knows there is some unfinished business to pass on to the next administration.
Specifically, he named three tasks he is handing off to Wright and Lacure he considers to be highly important. First is continuing to work on reducing student debt and excessive cost with an affordability initiative. He also mentioned making connections between OSU students and influential bodies around Columbus.
“We worked hard to establish relationships outside the university in places like the mayor’s office, Columbus City Schools and representatives downtown. For example, we’ve testified in the Ohio House (of Representatives) for student issues like predatory towing and affordability,” Stepp said. “We’ve shown we can work with (those places) and (Wright and Lacure) will follow that lead to strengthen our ties.”
Finally, Stepp stressed the importance of getting newly appointed OSU President Michael Drake familiar with Wright, Lacure and USG as a whole.
“I’m looking forward to introducing Drake to Celia and Leah,” Stepp said. “It’s so important to make sure there’s a connection there, so they both understand how to use their relationships to help each other and learn together from the start.”
Wright and Stepp have discussed some ways to ensure the various bonds USG has hold strong, and one possibility is by appointing Ahart to one of the aforementioned leadership positions.
Wright said there is a custom in USG to “try to appoint leaders from every ticket in the campaign,” regardless of which team each person was associated with.
She said she had conversations with Ahart about people on his team that he respects, but said she will not make any decisions until the application process.
The process of filling those positions will be led by Wright, Lacure and others involved with their administration.
Ahart said he does not know what his future holds as far as next year because his mind is on the present.
“Every administration has the option to appoint leaders, you’d have to ask Celia and Leah about the details. Right now, I’m only focused on the transition process and providing helpful input to Celia and Leah,” Ahart said.