By Grace Lett, Reporter
While most college seniors are busy finding a job or applying to graduate school, Andrew Hutchinson is running for the First Ward City Council seat. With a strong background in advocating for social justice issues, Hutchinson decided to run his campaign focused on affordable housing, infrastructure and community policing.
“We’re in a very changing time and I think Columbia has a lot of decisions specifically in the First Ward that it needs to make in regards to what support it wants to give our residents and how we want to make it an inclusive and equitable place to live,” Hutchinson said.
Growing up in a Mexican-American household with a mother who is an educator for a program called English Language Learners, Hutchinson has always been exposed to helping those who are less fortunate. His upbringing transpired into his politics.
“The people I met when I worked for public housing made me want to speak up for them but also on a smaller note even students here,” Hutchinson said.
Being a student at the University of Missouri, Hutchinson understands what it’s like for students who balance work and school. Hutchinson said that issues concerning students in the First Ward often go unheard. The fear of higher tuition in combination with luxury student housing may make it harder for low income and working students to find housing as well as transportation to the university.
“I was a working college student, most of my friends are as well,” Hutchinson said. “The voices of working college students who work 40-50 hours a week and can’t make it to MSA and can’t make it to these extracurricular that seem to drive student policy as well as city council meetings that drive city policy kind of gets lost in the muck and it’s unfortunate because a lot of Columbia folk have a lot of apathy or distrust in the student population.”
Hutchinson said that this is because luxury student housing has taken over a large portion of downtown Columbia. If elected, he hopes to be a voice for the students who live in the First Ward.
“He’s a student and so we felt like the Mizzou students, their voices aren’t really heard in the First ward but they make up most of the first ward and he’s also a contributing member to the community in first ward as well,” Nina Parker, Hutchinson’s campaign manager, said. “So he can bridge that gap between the students and community and hopefully he would be able to represent first ward the best.”
Hutchinson and Parker grew up together. Parker says that since they were young, Hutchinson had always stood out.
“Everyone always thought Andrew was going to go into politics. He was going to be the president type of thing,” Parker said. “He’s just got a really strong personality and he’s a great public speaker and he’s very passionate about what he does.”
His passion for politics and social justice helped Hutchinson to create “One Mic.” “One Mic” was founded a few years ago by Hutchinson and fellow co-worker, T’Keyah Thomas. “One Mic” hosts poetry slams that feature poets and musicians from diverse ethnic groups.
“That’s why we always try to make sure that whether it be women poets, black women poets or black male poets that we try to distance ourselves from the white male narrative of poetry which can be very intense and toxic,” said Hutchinson.
His background in “One Mic” and his various work in non-profits among the Columbia community inspired him to run for the First Ward City Council seat. Regardless of the outcome of the election, Hutchinson plans to continue his non-profit work.
“I like policy and I like speaking to lots of different groups of people and learning what their concerns are,” Hutchinson said. “I’d like to do something with policy or non-profit work for sure.”
The First Ward City Council election will be in April.
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