A new chairman was elected for the Joaquin neighborhood on Thursday, Nov. 19.
After debate and commentary from community members and the two candidates, Bill Graff won the vote over previous incumbent Leo Lines for the neighborhood chairman position.
As the new chairman, Graff will represent the Joaquin neighborhood at city council meetings and planning commission meetings for the next four years. Graff, a Provo resident of over 25 years, said he hopes to bring the ideas of long-time resident together with those of BYU students to help improve communication in the Provo community.
As the new chairman, Graff said he encourages students to come to the Joaquin neighborhood meetings so they are aware of what is going on in their community. Graff also wants to increase funds for the Joaquin park on 400 E. and 400 N., in order to support the over 15,000 residents in Provo District 5, where the Joaquin neighborhood is located.
According to former chairman Lines, nearly 90 percent of residents in the Joaquin neighborhood, which is the area located just south of BYU campus, are young single or married students, making the area very transient.
Graff said the Joaquin neighborhood has been underrepresented in city council meetings in the past and he hopes to change that while he is is office.
“Students don’t speak very loud in the government because they don’t vote. And they’re gone after four years” Graff said. But, Graff also said he believes he can get “strong students” involved in improving the Joaquin park.
In efforts to unify the Provo community, four vice chairs were elected as well; each from different walks of life. The vice chairs include community members Celeste Kennard and Susan Krueger-Barber as well as two BYU students, Wayne Leavitt and Alexander Barton.
Barton is a senior from Manti, Utah, studying urban and regional planning. Barton said he was invited to run as vice chair by Graff in efforts to improve unification between BYU and the Joaquin neighborhood.
Barton said he denounces the perception that because students are a transient population, they don’t care about government or being civically involved. “I think that students know what’s going on and they want to get involved. And there was evidence of that tonight.”
According to Barton, over 50 students were in attendance at Thursday night’s meeting to vote for the chair and vice chairs.
Both Barton and Graff said they feel that as long-time residents and families become more unified, issues such as parking and traffic will also improve.
Barton said he encourages students at BYU to get involved in the community by attending neighborhood meetings. Especially for those students who are registered to vote outside of Provo, attending these meetings will give them an opportunity to still contribute to their community and vote in an informal setting on issues that will directly effect them.
“There are plenty of opportunities for students to make their voice heard. And a neighborhood scale is really where students can be most effective and make the change happen,” Barton said.