The Quaker Campus met with District 2 City Council candidate Vince McLeod and his wife, Mayoral candidate Raquel McLeod on Feb. 24 to get a better understanding of their platforms for the upcoming election on April 10.
Vince McLeod was born and raised in Whittier, and is currently a government and economics teacher at Dominguez High School in Compton. McLeod attended Whittier College and majored in Political Science, and was a member of the William Penn Society. Before teaching, he worked for the U.S. Intelligence Community for 10 years and he coached rugby. It was through coaching rugby that he learned his passion for helping youth. He decided then that he would instead become a teacher, and now referees rugby in his free time. “I teach at Dominguez High School in Compton, so you can do the math [I am] the big white guy on campus,” said McLeod. “Honestly, the kids get a rap. They’re great kids, just the way society looks at them is backwards. I really enjoy [teaching].” McLeod attempts to teach his students about topics that affect our local governments and uses projects to enforce this real world learning.
His students are expected to run a mock city council campaign, and he has also implemented “The Homeless Project.” In this project, his students spend a day seeing how life is lived as a homeless person and determine solutions to fix homelessness. He is running for city council because he has always wanted to help others, and wants to work towards increasing voter turnout. “I want to do it because I want to see voter participation go up,” McLeod said. “If, at the end of this, we’re at over 50 percent voter turnout, I think I’ve done a good job for my point of District 2, because then we could say we’re truly representative.”
In an interesting turn of events, the City Couincil candidate is married to a mayoral candidate. Raquel McLeod is from Downey and moved to Whittier in 1999 to attend Whittier College, where she double-majored in Political Science and Spanish with a minor in Latin American Politics. She was also a member of the Thalian Society. In 2001, McLeod took a semester off to enlist in the United States Army, attended basic training, and has since been deployed twice. She has also worked in health care at two community based hospitals in Los Angeles that help provide medical care to underserved communities. After the birth of her third child, McLeod resigned from hospital work to become a consultant in business development and start her own small clothing business.
McLeod is running because she wants to raise her family in Whittier and would like to make positive changes to the city. “I can’t be upset at Whittier if I’m not going to invest in it, and ultimately [running] is about investing myself in that community,” said McLeod.
Because both candidates are alumni, they have placed a lot of emphasis on working towards making Whittier more of a college town and hope to see more cohesion between the College and the city. “What if you had a scheme where you had the city of Whittier working to provide internships and apprenticeships for college-age students so you’re capturing that talent,” said Vince McLeod. “There are some, but it needs to be the city recognizing a bit more than ‘Hey, we’re a college town, let’s be proud of it, let’s be purple and gold everywhere, and let’s work it both ways.’ ”
In addition to creating more internships with businesses in the community for Whittier College students, mayoral candidate Raquel McLeod also wants to connect clubs and organizations on campus to similar organizations in the city to work towards a common goal. “There is a group on your campus that does the collecting of food [Food Recovery Network]. Why, as a resident, have I not heard about them? Because Whittier College and the city are not one,” said Raquel McLeod. “I guarantee you, there might be 100 other businesses in Whittier that would be willing to donate to that if they knew. That’s how we’re not a college town. We should be praising that activity.”
Along with creating more internships and connecting clubs with the city, the McLeods also would like to see more Whittier College banners around the city year-round to show pride in having the College. “We’re our own city, but we’re part of [the College],” said Vince McLeod. “We need to capitalize on that more because we are a top college in the liberal arts sense, and it’s frustrating that people still ask us, ‘Isn’t that a JC?’ ”
The McLeods believe that increased involvement with the College and the community will help to have higher engagement in local politics. “It’s sad because people around the world would die to be able to vote and participate and yet we have lower than 20 percent turnout. People just don’t engage,” said Vince McLeod.
In taking steps to make Whittier more politically active, the McLeods believe there needs to be more ways of contacting city council members, as well as discovering new and innovative ways of communicating. Typically, conversations between citizens and council members occur during the open forum session of city council meetings. However, these forums are typically from 6-8 p.m. on weekdays, which is an inconvenient time period for those who work or young families. The McLeods believe opening up new ways of connecting with citizens will help increase community engagement, including Facebook live videos, YouTube channels, and a Facebook page that allows citizens to directly interact with the candidates to ask their questions.
When asked if the candidates have anything to say to the Whittier College student body, they both responded with stressing the importance of student and community engagement. “Register to vote and look at the candidates,” said Raquel McLeod. On March 15, the McLeods will speak in Hoover 100 at 4:30 p.m. The last of the candidate forums will be held on March 6 at the Chamber of Commerce. The Quaker Campus intends to meet with the rest of District 2 candidates and present their platforms.