Name of Professional: Will Sowell
Profession/Title: Frisco City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem
Business/Company name: Frisco City Government
I conducted my first interview with Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Will Sowell. I entered the interview wanting to gain a meaningful understanding of the inner workings of local politics, so that I would have a strong basis for not only my research, but also to shape questions for interviews to come. Throughout the interview, we discussed many aspects of what a seat on City Council consists of. However, the majority of the conversation was dedicated to the attitudes of local voters.
I learned that roughly 5% of registered voters in Frisco vote in municipal elections, which greatly surprised me. As I drive past municipal election campaign signs on every street corner and hear teachers stating that “one can’t complain if they don’t vote,” I pursued learning more about voter involvement in my interview. To counter such a low voter turnout rate, Councilman Sowell informed me about Frisco Strong. This is a nonpartisan program that encourages voting for municipal elections and aims to educate citizens on local issues. Though it was not established by the city council, many of the councilmembers strongly support Frisco Strong. I found this information incredibly influential to my research as I reflected upon this interview. As people vote based off of what they know, I believe such a nonpartisan outreach program is beneficial to promoting democracy. This allows policies to be truly shaped by a people who have established their own personal opinions, as opposed to biased information shaping the ballots and policies.
Furthering the conversation regarding attitudes among voters, I asked how Councilman Sowell and his colleagues separate their personal opinions from public opinion when making decisions affecting the city. He explained that sometimes the loudest stances from Frisco residents are unrepresentative of the public, and that public opinion often lacks a complete understanding of restrictions and abilities in policymaking. He taught me that most councilmembers vote for the best long term interests in Frisco; they vote their conscious. While I viewed this as admirable, it displayed a lack of a career politician mindset, given that voting from one’s conscious can negatively affect reelection campaigns. I began to draw connections between voter turnout and the decision making processes of city council. With voter apathy being the main causation of low turnout in the polls, I began to wonder if voters believe that their representatives ignore their wants and needs. While votes greatly shape policies, if registered voters are convinced that councilmembers are not actively listening and responding to the public, they perceive there to be no purpose in voting. From this inference, I began to shape questions for future interviews with other members of city council to learn more about voter trends, as well as how councilmembers promote positive attitudes regarding local government.
This interview gave me a new found eagerness to delve deeper into issues regarding voter attitudes, outreach, and turnout, as well as their effect on policy efforts. The information gained from this meeting will allow me to analyze the impact voter trends have on policies as I create my original research. I went into my first informational interview to learn about the duties of a councilmember, however, I left with knowledge that was much greater in shaping my research, original work, and possibly my future.
Date of Interview: September 8, 2016