Throughout the course of this semester, I have had the pleasure of having Akin Akinyemi, former Leon County Commissioner as a classmate. Having Akin as a classmate and hearing him share about his different experiences, from growing up in Nigeria and managing his own architectural firm, to his time as a Leon County Commissioner, has helped me to learn a lot about local politics. I recently had the opportunity to interview Akin and learn more about his career and get some insight on women in politics.
Her Campus (HC): Why did you choose to go into architecture?
Akin Akinyemi (AA): Growing up in Nigeria, I see a lot of blight and poor living conditions. After exploring various majors, I feel architecture is the best way I can help improve the built environment.
HC: What made you decide to go into politics?
AA: I have always been fascinated by politics and history, and as a local businessman, I have helped many likeminded citizens get elected. The two primary reasons that made me finally decide to run for public office are: a) Volunteering for so many great initiatives and seeing the recommendations shelved for lack of political will and b) About 75% of local council deliberations are about taxation and land-use, yet very few people who are business owners or architects/planners are in elected office.
HC: What was the best part about being a County Commissioner?
AA: Constituent services! Helping citizens one-on-one in understanding our governance or getting their issues resolved. One of my proudest accomplishments was helping create the Leon County Commission for the Status of Women and Girls. Working closely with my dear friend and co-founder of The Oasis Center for Women & Girls, Ms. Kelly Otte, we got the county commission to create and fund this much-needed commission. In the past three years, the commission has conducted research, public hearings and has issued outstanding reports and recommendations. The commission’s size (and funding) has continued to grow and the city of Tallahassee has joined in the effort. Oasis Center has taken this further by launching a “Women Can Run” campaign; recruiting, training and helping more women run for public office.
HC:What was the most challenging aspect of being a public servant?
AA:The negativities, lies, distortions and the lack of political will to do the right thing.
HC: Did you notice any differences on how women in politics are treated during your time as a public servant?
AA: In the last four years, there was an increasing number of women in public office and in leadership, though more so nationally than at state or local level. In my experience on the Leon County Commission and in state and national associations where I served in leadership roles, our female peers are well respected and our leadership rotation is gender-sensitive.
HC: What is some advice that you have for any aspiring young women who are looking to go into the political field?
AA: Be involved in your community! Seek out groups that promote women issues (i.e. League of Women Voters National and the Oasis Center for Tallahassee), volunteer with them and eventually seek board or paid positions with them. You will be at the forefront of key decision making and be able to launch your political career from there.
For more information on the Oasis Center For Women & Girls and the“Women Can Run” campaign, check out their website: http://www.theoasiscenter.net or contact Haley Cutler, Executive Director of The Oasis Center for Women & Girls. Address: at firstname.lastname@example.org.