Sitting idle on the sidelines is not an option for VSU senior, Keith Lee, who is set to graduate this December with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
While other students will seek the usual jobs following graduation, Lee hopes to land the position of City Councilman at Large for the City of Valdosta.
Lee grew up in rural southwest Georgia, considering himself to be the typical American kid until he reached middle school. During this time, he and his family moved to Cartersville, Ga. where he says he was able to experience city life.
Government and politics began to peak his interest and he became known as a “political nerd,” often teased by his peers.
“I guess I started to get interested in government and politics at an early age,” Lee said. “I was that kid that got picked on for wearing the political stuff to school.”
Lee’s passion stuck with him throughout high school, and after graduation he joined the Navy. Although he was accepted by Georgia Southern, Lee decided to postpone college at the time.
He was stationed in various cities across the U.S., including his favorite, Charleston, S.C. due to its historical culture.
After spending seven and a half years in the Navy, Lee briefly drove a semi-truck and then decided to pursue college.
He received his associate degree in political science at ABAC, during this time he also met his wife. The couple moved to Valdosta in 2009 following the birth of their son, Sawyer.
“We came down and visited a few times and there was just something here that we really fell in love with—the city, the university…we haven’t had any regrets,” Lee said.
Lee’s desire to run for city council stems from a strong ambition to be involved and active in the community.
“I’m a doer,” Lee said. “I want to have my hands in it and I want to be involved. I don’t want to just sit back and complain. I want to be the person to provide solutions.”
One of Lee’s main plans is a public transportation system to help people, especially students, get around and even possibly bring in more businesses, as well as attract more students to VSU.
He hopes the potential businesses will convince students to find work and remain in Valdosta after they graduate.
“ It’s going to benefit the community too, because when businesses see we have public transportation, that type of infrastructure, businesses are going to want to get here, and then that, in turn, is going to benefit the student…if we’re bringing in these businesses, maybe they can find work here,” Lee said.
He also wants to be a voice for the university on working with the city to address zoning issues between residents and the school.
In addition, Lee is focused on strengthening the relationship between the university and downtown Valdosta. He said he would like to see VSU eventually buy land downtown to expand the campus, similar to Columbus State.
The candidate says he doesn’t claim to know any more than the other city council members, but what he doesn’t know, he feels he can make up for in experience.
“I advanced quickly through the military, and it made me a good problem solver and someone who thinks outside the box, but at the same time, I know how to listen to people that are smarter than me,” Lee said.
He says his family motivates him and his wife has been a huge support, encouraging him along the way, as well a few professors at VSU.
“Dr. James LaPlant is a huge inspiration,” Lee said. “Dr. Dixie Haggard is another guy. These guys have been there, they’ve done it, they teach about it, and it just inspires me to want to achieve more.”
Lee and his campaign supporters have been out registering students since early voting began on Monday.
Tyler Moore, Lee’s campaign manager, said even if students are registered to vote at home, they have until Oct. 4 to change their voter registration to Valdosta.
The two other candidates running for the seat are Ben Norton, a Valdosta Middle School teacher, and John L. Eunice III.