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Mace & Crown | August 17, 2017

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Andria McClellan & Norfolk's Untapped Potential

Andria McClellan & Norfolk’s Untapped Potential
Taisha Cuebas-Ellin
Contributing Writer

Ten months ago, when I first moved to the area to go to ODU, I was told that I should consider living in Chesapeake or Virginia Beach because Norfolk? Well, the general consensus was it’s not a great place to live. After living here for nearly a year, I wholeheartedly disagree and am glad I “took a chance” by choosing Norfolk.

I love ODU and all Norfolk has to offer. The first place I called home was Ocean View — and it’s still my favorite part of Norfolk. Ocean View has the potential to be so much more than Norfolk’s hidden gem, it has the potential to flourish and bring in waterfront restaurants, young families wanting to enjoy calm bay waters, outdoor festivals and recreational enthusiasts, if our city leaders begin to acknowledge its most undervalued asset.

It’s unbelievable that seven and a half miles of beautiful beaches and prime bayfront has been undervalued and poorly marketed for so long. Many areas of Norfolk, especially in and around Old Dominion University, have shared the same fate. While I was growing up, my father was stationed in Europe. I was able to experience cultures across the globe, and I appreciate how Norfolk’s diversity, thanks in part to ODU’s international student community, makes Norfolk a more interesting and unique place to live.

ODU has a lot of students from America and abroad who are smart, driven and entrepreneurial. I’ve heard Norfolk referenced as a potential ‘Silicon Harbor’ – the port sister to ‘Silicon Valley.’ I believe it is achievable. We have a fabulous educational hub, the largest Naval base in the world, an economic engine in the port and an urban environment which promotes the arts.

As wonderful as it all is, Norfolk lags behind in many areas essential to our future. We lag behind in our public education system, in our technology development and in our economic development efforts. We need to start working to ensure we have the proper infrastructure in place, like gigabit broadband across the city, and the workforce in place to expand our current businesses and attract next-generation companies.

We need leaders who will utilize valuable assets like ODU’s Strome Entrepreneurial Center, the ODU Enterprise Gateway, and more to help grow our great city. As an entity that contributes 2.1 billion dollars to the GDP of the area, the continued success of ODU is critical to the Hampton Roads’ economy.

I couldn’t have picked a better university or city to call home. The people I’ve met on campus and in the community have etched Norfolk into my heart, and I know I want to stay here post-graduation. The talent and energy I see at Old Dominion University needs to be tapped into more effectively by our local leaders and a city council representative who wants to work with us and is excited about new ideas for the future and what students and young minds can bring to the table.

As we head to the polls on May 3rd, I hope ODU students will join me in working to move Norfolk and ODU forward by by voting for a leader who can bring about positive, effective change and engage in forward-thinking solution-based leadership. Superward 6 should matter to us as ODU students. While much of the university exists in the city’s other superward, as Norfolk residents, even if it’s only for 8 months a year, many of us live off-campus and fall into Superward 6. As an urban university, outside portions of our campus and much of the area in the direct vicinity of ODU  are represented by the Superward 6 councilperson.

Because ODU is such a valuable economic engine for the city of Norfolk, all of our leadership should be working to utilize our school and our students to move the city forward. I mentioned after I graduate, I’d like to stay in the area. I’d like to, but I also believe that in order to make that a viable option for me, and for other ODU students, we need leaders who will move Norfolk into the future, leaders who will reject the status quo and bring new vision to our great city.

When I saw that type of leader in Andria McClellan, candidate for Norfolk City Council, Superward 6, I got excited. The talent, energy and passion I see in Andria McClellan every day is unmatched by other candidates. It’s time for leadership that understands the importance of all of Norfolk, leadership who will think creatively and collaboratively and work to enhance the entire region. It’s time for independent leaders who walk the walk. It’s time for leadership who will stand up when everyone else is sitting down.

We will soon have a new mayor and a new president, and I believe Norfolk’s Superward 6 should have a new councilperson. I urge you to vote for Andria McClellan on May 3rd to ensure we have a new voice on city council– voice who will work with all of us to tap ODU’s and Norfolk’s potential.

Taisha Cuebas-Ellin is a student at Old Dominion University and also works for Andria McClellan’s campaign for city council (Superward 6).