By: Caitlin Nolan
Watching Steve Townsend take control of the Marist Student Government meeting in a way only a natural born leader could, you would never have guessed that he had no intention in becoming involved with student government when he began at Marist College.
“In high school I did not affiliate myself with student government at all,” Townsend said. “I ran for freshman class
president because on move in day there was this kid who said he was going to run and he really pissed me off because I was sweating my ass off moving things up and down the stairs and I figured I wanted to run against him, and then I won.”
This sort of fluke may be one of the best things to have happened to Townsend and the student body. When walking into the Student Government office, you can instantly tell Townsend is in his element as the newly elected Student Body President. He knows everyone in the office, is running in ten different directions to make sure everyone is comfortable and prepared for the upcoming meeting and can tell you everyone’s first and last name who is in the room. He greeted me with a high five and a genuine “Thanks for coming” and asked if there was anything he could do to make me more at home. Clearly, Townsend is a people person.
“After winning, I had to figure what to do from there,” Townsend said. “That year we ended up winning class of the year, so I figured something must have been going right.”
While running around the office and talking to all who enter, Townsend does not miss a beat in greeting one female sporting rather large sunglasses with an energetic, “Hey Bono, what’s up.” She ignored it and took her seat, clearly used to his good natured humor and quick wit. When it came down to business though, Townsend became serious.
One of the first issues on the agenda that Townsend brought to the table was the move from “Student Government Association” to “Marist College Government.” The move to a more personal atmosphere is an essential facet of Townsend’s goals for his administration.
“One of my main objectives is to let everyone know who we are and what we do; there are going to be a lot of changes this year,” Townsend said. “In the comments section of the online ballots, 90% of the comments students made showed that they didn’t know what we did. I will be a failure as Student Body President if everyone at Marist doesn’t know who we are and what we do.”
Among his many plans to get the student body and Student Government to establish a closer relationship, Townsend, who previously served as Senate Speaker, plans on beginning the administering of surveys. Members of the Student Government will soon be found passing out surveys concerned with the interests of the students. During the meeting, Townsend put it simply, saying, “I see us as one entity. We are the Marist Student Government and the best thing to do is get together and get our name out there.”
If his administration is anything like his campaign, Townsend has nothing to worry about. Employing unique methods of advertising and appealing to the masses by taking the time to actually knock on doors and meet those he could one day represent.
“It was intense,” Townsend said of the campaigning experience. “It was probably the most nervous I have ever been in my entire life; it was an exciting nervous feeling. We knocked on over 1000 doors, we met everyone.”
Both Townsend and his running mate, Victoria Billeter, made use of every creative outlet possible to ensure those on campus were educated on the upcoming student government election.
“I had a running mate which, before Erik, was unheard of,” Townsend said. “I felt that if I was going to appoint someone, the student body should know them. We talked to every club we could and we had 110 t-shirts walking around. We had postcard fliers explaining what we did, what have done what we want to do.”
Upon mentioning the postcards, Townsend grabbed his backpack and fished out what appeared to be a tiny, blue card. These cards could be found throughout campus during the Month of March. Listed on the cards were the accomplishments of both Townsend and Billeter separately and joined, and an account of all goals set for the future if elected. Among those listed under Townsend’s name was the fact that he has “raised over $109,000 for St. Jude’s Research Hospital.”
“I think one of his biggest achievements was what he has done for Saint Jude,” Ben Condon, Townsend’s roommate of two years said. “He brought it to the school. He has just taken the reigns and it has grown tremendously. He has gotten all of the clubs involved and they now have a letter writing night where they get sponsorships and donations.”
Former Student Body President Erik Zeyher echoed Condon’s sentiment, saying Townsend has worked tirelessly to improve the conditions of others.
“Since his freshman year Steve has worked tremendously hard on Saint Jude [charities],” Zeyher said.
After sitting down with Steve Townsend, the fact that all who know him well can instantly say he is a hard worker comes as no surprise. Initiative and a strong work ethic is only to be expected in a President, and Townsend is no exception.
“I thought I could do good for the student body,” Townsend said. “It wasn’t a personal goal of mine [to be Student body President], but I had a lot of plans and I thought the only way to get those plans done was to do it myself.”