Deputy Mayor of Meadville Larry McKnight and City Manager Andy Walker, ’00, spoke at the Allegheny Student Government General Assembly on Tuesday, Feb. 25.
ASG welcomed the speakers to Henderson Campus Center room 301/302 to discuss how Allegheny College can strengthen its relationship with the Meadville community.
The discussion began with Walker explaining his background and his experiences as city manager. He told attendees that he became the downtown coordinator for Meadville immediately after graduating from Allegheny, and explained that he was exposed to this opportunity through the French Creek Project.
After more than a year as the downtown coordinator, Walker became the executive director of Meadville’s Redevelopment Authority for approximately eight years.
“I got to do some really cool projects in terms of economic development and grant writing, so I really cut my teeth on that,” Walker said.
Walker has now been the acting city manager since he was elected in July 2013.
Following Walker, McKnight expanded on his background in Meadville, stating he was born and raised in the town and went to college locally at Edinboro University. He emphasized the special relationship that he observed between Meadville residents and the college when he was growing up.
“Even when I was a young kid growing up (in Meadville), we had Allegheny College students that played a big part in helping (the Meadville community) become who we are,” McKnight said.
McKnight explained the difficulty of growing up during a time of civil unrest and discrimination, but mentioned that Allegheny students made him and other people of color feel welcome and included in the community.
“It was a very educational part of my life, with the help from Allegheny College students that took the time to come down to our neighborhood,” McKnight said.
McKnight affirmed that the positive interactions with the college and its community were part of the reason he became involved in city council and stayed in Meadville in the first place.
“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, and I don’t want to be part of the problem,” McKnight said. “I want to be a part of the solution. I want to help continue to see Meadville grow.”
Following McKnight’s introduction, Director of Community Relations Owen Jacobsen, ’23, asked McKnight and Walker if they could provide some strategies or ideas about how the college could promote this growing relationship in the future.
Walker responded, stating that coordination in safety and security could be improved, but that overall the college administration has good communication about programs and grants with the city officials.
“There is that level (of communication) happening from a city perspective from city management to college administration,” Walker said.
He also expressed his excitement about President Hilary Link’s eagerness to create strong ties between Meadville and Allegheny.
“I get the sense that President Link is really going to (promote college involvement and leadership),” Walker said. “We’re having lots of good conversations, she’s asking great questions, there’s funding opportunities at work and I’m excited about that momentum.”
Director of Diversity and Inclusion Taylor Marzouca, ’20, asked McKnight and Walker how students can foster better interactions with long-term Meadville residents.
Walker responded that the best way to combat tension and create better interactions is to talk to others and form relationships.
“You have to intentionally meet (people) and get involved somehow,” Walker said. “There has to be intentional efforts to know each other.”
He expanded on this point, explaining that he often tells his staff that in order to discuss difficult topics with Allegheny administration, there has to be a level of trust.
“That (trust) needs to trickle down all the way to a student level,” Walker said.
President of Class of 2021 Emma Zurowski asked Walker and McKnight to elaborate on what went well during the 2019 City Council election, and how students can repeat the pros in future elections to continue to support the community.
McKnight said that participation and expressing ideas were some of the most important factors.
“I don’t care whether it’s here in Meadville or wherever you end up, get involved and make your voices heard,” McKnight said. “The one thing that really upsets me is when someone says that (their) vote doesn’t count. It does.”
Following McKnight and Walker’s discussion, ASG moved to cabinet reports.
Director of Communication and Press David Roach, ’21, began his report by announcing that a “How to: Budget” video will be filmed on Feb. 26, to better explain how finances and budget hearings work. He also announced that ASG will be taking yearbook pictures in two weeks.
Following Roach, Marzouca reported that the diversity lounge is being discussed, and she plans to hold an open meeting to CLC members to discuss ideas about the space moving forward.
“The purpose of that is to make sure that any decision made about the space is not coming from me,” Marzouca said. “We’re all going to work together to see what students actually want.”
Director of Sustainability and Environmental Affairs Cat Lord, ’20, announced in her report that there was discussion about how to improve the Green Box initiative and make it more popular, but that overall the program is struggling.
“A lot of students and employees are keeping a lot of extra coins or green boxes instead of just having one and cycling through,” Lord said. “They’re having to restock everything and it’s costing a lot of money, so try to encourage people to have just one box and one coin.”
Lord said that, unfortunately, if the program continues to be more expensive, it may have to stop all together.
After a few more cabinet reports, ASG transitioned into class reports. Most of the class reports consisted of developments of already existing projects. The Class of 2023 said that they are creating promotional material for the First-Year formal, and The Class of 2022 announced they are in contact with the administration about potential participation with the upcoming Chalk Walk with Class of 2021.
President Jason Ferrante, ’20, began his report by announcing that the Major Events Committee will soon be planning Springfest. He also reported that the general assembly meeting may be moved to 6:30 or 6:45 p.m on Tuesday, March 3, to better coincide with the ASG Presidential Debate.
The meeting adjourned at 7:50 p.m.