David Thompson is one step closer to his dream job as president of the United States.
On March 2, Thompson watched the election results live stream from class when he learned that he had been elected the student body president. His ticket won with 56 percent of the vote, but Thompson said he knew it was time to get to work.
“I still had a presentation to give after the announcement, so it was a bit of a change from celebration mode back to class mode,” Thompson said.
Thompson is a junior political science major with a minor in environmental policy. He says problem-solving is what he enjoys.
“We ran as problem solvers, but really to my core, that’s what I love to do,” Thompson said, whose campaign promised “real solutions.”
With the assistance of his campaign manager, Emilie Morris, Thompson campaigned hard. He announced his candidacy at midnight on Feb. 20, with free pizza, chips and drinks.
Throughout the two weeks of campaigning, Thompson handed out T-shirts, hats and stickers to advertise his platform. On the final day of the election, he even provided a Snapchat filter for students to use on campus.
He and his running mate, Samuel Goetz, met over the summer at an Anchor Day event for incoming students. Thompson, who works as a peer coach, told Goetz that when he came to school in August he should join Student Government.
Thompson joined Student Government in 2015 as the deputy of public relations. A year later, he was appointed to director of communications. Goetz’s first Student Government experience came when he won a senate seat in the fall, earning him a working relationship with Thompson.
“We started working together and developed a friendship through that,” Thompson said.
Goetz is a freshman majoring in global business. Unlike his running mate, Goetz attended the election results announcement in the Reef. He watched as Shannon Scanlon, Student Government’s supervisor of elections, announced that Thompson and Goetz won with 355 votes, more votes than the other two presidential tickets combined.
“It felt fantastic. We’ve heard the students and they want a change with how their money is handled,” Goetz said. “I couldn’t be happier or more honored.”
After the announcement, Goetz and a few others who contributed to the campaign efforts waited outside of Thompson’s Florida politics and government class to celebrate.
“It was definitely a touching moment between us. The campaign had been so intensive that we just had the longest embrace out of relief and pure joy,” Thompson said. “It was definitely one of the greatest moments of my life.”
By the time he decided to run, Thompson had worked under three different Student Government presidents.
“I saw that there were things that could be done,” Thompson said. “When the opportunity presented itself, I was like ‘You know what? This is something I really want to do.’”
Thompson and Goetz said that managing their campaign for two weeks was a draining process. After receiving student feedback, the two realized just how difficult it is to create a platform that appeals to everyone.
“You sit there with your team and you’re like that’s something we really worked hard on, but people didn’t like it,” Thompson said.
At one point, Thompson was even blocked from the USFSP Know it All’s Guide to Knowing it All Facebook page.
“[That was] a weird thing to happen but I just had to remind myself you’re doing it for the students. You’re not doing it for personal gain,” Thompson said. “You’re also not taking it personally. You’re here to do a job.”
Thompson was born in Silver Spring, Maryland, but he grew up in Florida. He moved to Ocala when he was eight years old, but switched schools a few times growing up. The constant transfer of schools prevented him from crafting long-lasting friendships.
He graduated from West Port High School in 2015, where he also participated in Student Government. The Student Government club there helped him establish friends that he still has today. Because of his prior experience, he sees Student Government in a different light.
“I don’t treat Student Government as something I can put on a resume,” Thompson said. “I treat Student Government to be a place where people can grow to be leaders, as a family. Just an organization that should be more personal than political.”
Thompson said he wants to make sure students know that he’s going to work hard to accomplish everything on his platform. At the presidential debate on Feb. 23, Thompson asked others to hold him accountable for fulfilling every aspect of his 90-day plan.
His promised plans for the first 90 days in office are ambitious. Thompson wants to bring an on-campus convenience store to USFSP, expand reading days to an entire week, add three sports teams to the campus, increase library hours and establish a 24-hour study area.
Thompson will become president in May.
In the meantime, he’ll be spending a lot of time shadowing Laraine Ruiz, the acting student body president. She’s excited to get started.
“I’m glad to see that we had a contested election,” Ruiz said. “Now I know who I’ll be passing the torch off to and that’s a weight off my shoulders.”
Ruiz stepped into her role as acting student body president in August, after Ziya Kardas, former student body president, and his vice president took a mysterious temporary leave of absence. They both resigned in January.
Since Ruiz didn’t have a prior warning before taking the position, she didn’t have a chance to shadow Kardas or learn about the job. That was difficult she said, but it helped teach her.
“I had to learn on the fly, but I think it taught me more about the mindset of a president,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz says the job is more rigorous than she thought. It involves building relationships with top administrators and caring about the whole student body, not just your friends, but Ruiz stressed the importance of teamwork.
“There’s a change in dynamics within the organization,” Ruiz said. “It’s important that whatever happens, you remain a team.”