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Student Spotlight: Candidate for Charleston County Council- Joel Milliken

Posted by: hutchisonch | October 17, 2018 | No Comment |

Most college seniors are studying for the GRE, refining law school applications, or on the hunt for a post-grad job, but political science major Joel Milliken ‘19 has been spending his fall semester on the campaign trail as he seeks election for Charleston County Council. A James Island-native, Milliken is running in his home district to address what he sees as the district’s most important issues: development and the environment.

“I’ve grown up on James Island, I’ve lived there my whole life and I’ve seen how it’s evolved even in the last couple of years,” Milliken explained. “There’s a lot more construction and a lot more development going on. One of the biggest issues that has arisen is where development is going, how quickly it is going in, and what we’re doing in terms of infrastructure to support both the citizens we already have and the people who are moving here. One of my biggest issues is flooding. We’re in the midst of a few drainage studies now, but we need to identify all the drainage basins and how they are interconnected, the places that are at risk for flooding, and what impact additional infill would have on that. I’d like those drainage studies and also drainage system upgrades to be completed with additional half cent sales tax funding. We need to preserve the very fragile environment we have here.”

While it might initially seem to be a difficult choice to balance finishing college with running for office, Milliken believes it was simply the right time to seize the opportunity. “One of the biggest things I’ve been learning as a political science major is the importance of participation in government, the importance of putting yourself out there and working with people. And why not now? If not now, when?”

Milliken was particularly concerned with the lack of political competition in his district, which inspired him to run after a Republican primary victory left one candidate running unopposed. “There was no opposition to that Republican ticket. I feel like that’s not really how politics should work. It should be an actual dialogue, not so much a coronation, regardless of who wins the primaries.”

Prior to making the final decision to run, Milliken discussed his options with several of his political science professors including Dr. Gibbs Knotts, Dr. Claire Curtis, and Dr. Hollis France. “My advisor and professors were supportive and encouraging when I ran the idea by them, so I decided to put myself in the ring.”

According to Milliken, his goal is to start a dialogue in his community. “I’m here to give voters a choice, more or less. I’m here to give voters a choice, more or less. By voicing my opinions, and those I believe are shared by other islanders, and putting these ideas out here, I hope to make some impact at least.” He selected a local race because of the impact he felt he could make close to home. “The people who have the greatest impact on where you live, on your day to day life, are the people who are making decisions in your planning commission, your county council, and your municipal government. No one in my generation is really participating in that. [These decisions] are impacting the community we inherit, the community I’m going to be raising a family in.”

Milliken also cites his time as a political science major as influencing his decision to run. “Dr. Knotts’ class on public administration really opened my eyes to just how important local government is in terms of dictating policies that impact us day to day. It was a contributing factor to me wanting to run and wanting to contribute to local government. I always wanted to be a public servant and help people, and actually understanding the role of local government and the role of the people that we elect to local government is something that I have to attribute to political science.”

Recognizing that not everyone will run for local office, Milliken noted that being an informed voter is something that anyone can do to be a participant in local government. “November 6th is a very big date regardless of whether you’re running or not. Just by becoming informed as to who is on your ballot, making that informed choice and putting that choice on a ballot is one of the most vital acts you can do to be part of this system.”

Milliken also encourages young people to get involved in local government. “Local government is ridiculously vast. There’s so much that we as citizens take for granted as something that just happens on the sidelines, but by going out and actually participating and voicing your opinions, that is how actual policy gets changed. Almost every planning commission is an open forum, most town and city council meetings have opportunities to speak and just by walking in, putting your name down, and discussing what you’re most concerned about, real change happens.”

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