Less than one month after U.S. President Barack Obama stressed civil service in his commencement address, one University graduate is wasting no time putting his political science education to the test by running for public office.
About halfway through his senior year at the University, William Bostic Jr. started thinking about running for mayor of Ann Arbor. At 22, the political science and Afroamerican and African Studies major who graduated on May 1 said he just wants to listen to and help the people of Ann Arbor — a place he said feels like home.
“If I can help you, I can help you. If I can’t, I’m going to figure out a way to help you out. That’s what I want to do,” Bostic said. “I want to be somebody who you can come talk to if you have a problem. I feel that as the mayor, I can be that voice for people (who) need a voice.”
Bostic said he was inspired to run for office after he wrote a paper for one of his political science courses about enacting a foreclosure moratorium.
“The funny thing was I started seeing (my ideas) in The Huffington Post … they were talking about lone modifications — what I was talking about in my paper,” he said. “I (was) like, ‘Wow, I actually came up with this before some other people … You know what? This is what my education is teaching me — I have the credentials, I can do this, why not?’ ”
With no official campaign platform yet, Bostic said he is waiting to hear more from the citizens of Ann Arbor about what issues are important to them.
“We need to hear what everybody has to say first before we can do anything,” he said. “Whatever problems come to the top we’re going to address. If it’s a small problem, we’re going to address it too. I want to hear every single problem.”
There are some issues, however, that Bostic said he already knows he will incorporate in his platform — the most important being the city’s budget.
“We can’t really do anything until the budget’s fixed,” he said. “I’m going to tell people that sacrifices have to be made and I’ll start off by lowering my salary. If I am elected, I plan on lowering it to (at most) 35,000 dollars. I believe it’s 41,600 (dollars) right now for the mayor, but I’ll take it down to 35, even 34. That will be my gesture of good will saying … I’m willing to make a sacrifice.”
Bostic said he hopes that by fixing the budget, he can prevent layoffs to Ann Arbor’s first responders.
Also on Bostic’s agenda are renovations to the E. Stadium bridge and a decision on whether or not to tear down Argo Dam. Bostic said he is waiting to take a side on the Argo Dam issue until he has more information on the situation.
“If (the dam) is not generating electricity, I feel there should be no need for it, but I’m still not ready to make that call because I haven’t heard from anybody who uses Argo pond,” he said.
Born in Houston, Bostic said he lived in Ann Arbor for five years before moving back down to Texas, where he spent most of his childhood. Bostic added that even after settling down in Stafford, Texas he and his family came back to Ann Arbor occasionally on the holiday to visit relatives.
At the University, Bostic was involved with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Black Undergraduate Law Association. He played varsity football but quit after two years and started working at the Michigan Telefund.
“I wasn’t used to having so much time on my hands,” Bostic said. “I wanted to work and do things for myself, so I started working and was able to buy a car, so I learned what hard work gets you.”
Bostic said he was always planning to stay in Ann Arbor after graduation.
“Personally, I feel attached to Ann Arbor – the people here, the students, the citizens, the residents, everybody here,” he said. “I’m going to try to stick around up in Michigan because … this is home.”
Before deciding to run for mayor, Bostic said he was en route to law school to become a corporate lawyer, but he said after doing some research, he realized he didn’t want to be “just one of the heavy-handed lawyers that would just do what they had to do for the company.”
Jon Lockard, a lecturer for the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, said Bostic approached him earlier this year to discuss his future.
“He came to me talking about advancing his career, about being helpful to the community, about the determination to not let political things affect his growth,” Lockard said. “Frankly I had no idea he was going to run for mayor, but I did know he was very interested in helping the community.”
Lockard spoke highly of Bostic’s caring and genuine personality, describing the young candidate as “a little bit beyond his years.” He also said he’s excited to see a young person running for office.
“I think it’s wonderful when young people…see themselves as part of the community and not as on the side of the community, and I think that’s something that should be celebrated. Whatever the outcome, I think it should be celebrated,” he said.
“If personality has anything to do with it,” Lockard added, “he’s in good shape.”
After deciding to throw his hat in the ring for mayor, Bostic said he called Mayor Leonard Scarcella of his hometown of Stafford for some guidance.
Scarcella, who said he knew Bostic when he was in high school and often watched him play football, said he’s proud of the young candidate and thinks Bostic has what it takes to sit in office.
“I admire him immensely,” Scarcella said. “He’s biting off a huge chunk to run … never having any political experience … but I have great admiration for what he’s doing. He seems to be an articulate young man and has a very nice appearance, and I think he’s a very solid individual and I just wish him every success.”
Scarcella, who was first elected mayor of Stafford in 1969 at the age of 29, said he is learning about the issues facing Ann Arbor to advise Bostic on how to campaign and form a platform.
“He’s got to come up with a platform that resonates with the people, and I think he can do that,” Scarcella said. “Then he’s got to get out and sell it and convince the people that he’s the one with the gavel, that he’s the one that can make things happen.”
Bostic said that since he announced his mayoral bid, he has faced a lot of scrutiny for deciding to run for the office at his age, but he said he’s tired of people telling him that he can’t do the job because he lacks experience.
“I’ve heard that so many times from so many people – experience, experience, experience, experience. You know what, I’m sick of hearing experience. I’m an adult. I’m 22 years old. Yes, there’s gonna be a bit of a learning curve, but I’ve dealt with plenty of learning curves. I’m gonna be on top of this,” Bostic said. “I’m done listening to all these people that say I’m not experienced enough. If I’m not experienced enough, why am I allowed to put my name on the ballot? It’s my right as a United States citizen to run for public office, and if you don’t want to vote for me, you have the choice to put other people on the ballot, simple as that.”
Katherine Weathers, the student services coordinator for the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies at the University and another supporter of Bostic, echoed Scarcella’s sentiment.
“Any first-time mayor has lack of experience, so he can go in and do just as well as any person if not better because his heart is for the city, and he cares about the city, and he doesn’t have favors that he owes back,” she said. “He’s not obligated to anyone, so he’ll do what’s best for the community.”
Scarcella said he hopes the voters will at least give Bostic a chance without automatically disregarding him as inexperienced.
“Just give the man a hearing, listen to him, hear what he has to say and what he’s proposing and recognize that yes, he’s trying to leap tall buildings … but just don’t summarily write him off because that’s certainly unfair to him, (and) it might be unfair to Ann Arbor as well,” he said.
Running as an independent, Bostic must collect at least 250 signatures on a nominating petition. Bostic said he’s only been collecting signatures for a few days, but has already received a lot of support.
In November, Bostic will face off against fellow independent Steve Bean, the chairman of Ann Arbor’s Environmental Commission, and the winner of the August primary — either incumbent democrat John Hieftje, who has been mayor since 2000, or challenger Patricia Lesko.