Take a look around you and you will find that the world of politics is dominated by older, more seasoned, people. That never deterred Molly Miller from stepping up to run for City Director, in fact she sees it as an asset.
Miller, 27, moved to Arkansas from Tulsa to attend Hendrix, and while there she found herself working in Little Rock a lot through internships and campaigns. After Hendrix Miller moved to Little Rock and quickly fell in love. One thing she didn’t love was the lack of young representation in city government, something that eventually led her to run for the At-Large City Director position.
“I wasn’t really planning this race, I got frustrated enough and I had a conversation with myself that someone needed to run and it needed to be someone young,” Miller says. “Finally I realized that the person was me. I am ready to see some change and I am ready to see a young person on the board.”
The growing population of young people is a group that Miller feels is under represented in the city. Miller says she respects the older city board members, but sees the need for someone with a vested interest in representing her generation.
“I think Little Rock is becoming a younger city. As we get more tech based and marketing based with those type of companies locating here it is going to continue that trend. There needs to be representation on the board for those people,” Miller explains. “I want someone who is making decisions for people like me that have the perspective of our future kids and grandkids on the board. I highly value the perspective of the older board members, but we need balance in representation.”
Being young and running for office is no easy task, something Miller says she faces every day. One of the most common perceptions she faces is that she lacks the knowledge and drive to maintain the office. It is something she has learned to manage, something working numerous campaign positions while in school has helped with.
Miller believes though that it is exactly the right time for her to run, not to wait until she is older.
“There also comes a time when the younger generation has to step up and the responsibility shifts,” Miller says. “If you don’t then all of a sudden there is no one there with any experience who is use to sharing their ideas and vision.”
The demographics certainly support this. The millennial generation (ages 18-34) has surpassed the baby boomer generation (ages 51-69) that represents most of the city board members as the largest population among generations. Miller believes it is important for the largest generation to start taking political action now before so that they are better equipped to lead.
“There also comes a time when the younger generation has to step up and the responsibility shifts. If you don’t then all of a sudden there is no one there with any experience who is use to sharing their ideas and vision,” Miller continues.
Miller, who is a Hanger Hill district resident, found the need to run in an At-Large position critical because of the city wide representation. The three At Large positions in Little Rock are not elected by a defined geographical area, rather they are elected to represent the city’s interests as a whole. Miller chose the seat currently occupied by Joan Adcock as the best spot for her, because she believes Adcock has lost focus on what is best for both her generation and the city at large.
Miller points to issues such as the Uber cab debate that Adcock actively opposed after experiences with Yellow Cab that she found dangerous and could have been prevented with better choices and more competition. Additionally 5 AM clubs, which Adcock also actively attempted to shut down, became a point of contention for Miller who felt Adcock opposed only because she failed to connect with the target audience of the clubs.
The biggest issues propelling Miller into opposing Adcock however came from things like the Civil Rights ordinance, something Miller says Adcock actively opposed before turning at the last moment when it was clear the bill would not pass. Also Miller feels that Adcock’s stances on the ongoing 30 crossing debates and the charter school debate within the Little Rock School district do not represent the city as a whole well.
“Charter schools are good in that they give people choice, but they need to operate to performance standards, if not they do not need to further spread the public school money that could be used at improving the quality of public schools,” Miller explains her stance. “Joan opposed having a much-needed public high school built-in Southwest Little Rock that is important for that community. It is a high need area and was going to be a state of the art school, it is going to be an amazing thing for Little Rock school district. She unfortunately actively favored charter schools over schools like this and does so every chance she gets, regardless of the specific needs or impact on an area.”
Miller acknowledges that running a city-wide race against an established opponent is an uphill battle. Adcock has served on the city board since 1992 and has strong experience running a city wide campaign and the fundraising requirements needed.
Citywide campaigns are considerably more costly than an individual district. Miller says she hopes a grassroots style campaign of being deeply involved with each neighborhood, listening to concerns, and connecting directly with citizens can overcome here sizable disadvantage versus Adcock in fundraising.
“I really want to make the campaign about the people,” Miller says. “I want to connect with people and listen to them. I enjoy hearing people’s stories.”
For most board members though, Miller has a great deal of respect. She says she is looking forward to working with them and taking an active role in the city government.
“We have to have a comprehensive plan for moving forward. Look at the East Village area, we need to look at the impact it will have on other areas,” Miller explains. “We have to plan for areas like Hanger Hill for example. People are going to locate there to be next to jobs and entertainment. We need to plan for the type of people who will move there, the increase in traffic and go ahead and start working on the impact of those things rather than waiting until it has already happened.”
Regardless of the election results this november, Miller wants to stay active in helping to empower neighborhoods.
“I want to keep going to the neighborhood association meetings and doing whatever I can to help people get things done, elected or not,” Miller tells us. “I like working with people to find out how we can improve the community without city funding through neighborhood action.”
Miller says she hopes her campaign will help inspire other young people to run for office and represent their demographic.
“You would have a lot more young representation if people didn’t have attitude that someone has to ask them and if not they need to wait their turn,” Miller says. “This is our world to shape and we need people to stand up and lead. They always say ‘if you don’t vote don’t complain’, but if you never step up to take the lead to represent the needs you see you are just as bad.”