As part of a four-part speaker series titled, Profiles in Leadership, Salt Lake Community College student leadership was recently given an opportunity to learn from former Taylorsville mayor, Russ Wall.
“These are our future leaders, and I thought it would be really important for them to learn my perspective,” says Wall. “There are a lot of reasons why people get involved into politics and involved in the City.”
Contact Student Life and Leadership for more information about the next Profiles in Leadership event or to get involved in student government at SLCC.
Wall was the mayor of Taylorsville for seven years during which time he was voted the Best Mayor of Utah, erected a memorial for military veterans, helped pass legislation to protect Utah’s mobile home communities and helped increase code enforcement throughout Taylorsville to ensure it would stay beautiful. Now, Wall is a part of Salt Lake County’s Mayor Ben McAdams’ cabinet as the Director of Public Works.
Wall’s resounding question to the students in attendance at the Profiles in Leadership event was, “Can you fight City Hall?” Fighting City Hall is how Wall became involved in politics.
When Wall bought his house, he wanted to build a garage on his corner lot. When he went to get his building permit, he was told that he could not build the garage where he wanted, because it would confuse the mailman. Wall decided to go to City Hall to fight against being told he could not build his garage, and his fight helped him start on the path to eventually run City Hall.
“The garage taught me that with something so little, you can make a difference in your city,” says Megan Rose, a SLCC Business Management Major and the night time activity planner for SLCC Jordan Campus. “He wasn’t even planning on running for city councilman until someone said, if you want to do something, then run for office.”
In addition to endearing personal stories about his involvement in the community and the fights that he led with the power of City Hall, Wall also spoke with the SLCC students about what it takes to be a leader.
The qualities that Wall listed as the most important for a leader to possess included being sensitive to people’s needs, being thick-skinned so as not to take criticism personally, being willing to compromise and being able to collaborate with others.
“Education is not only about what we read in the books, but also what we learn from the community,” says Doctor Abio Ayeliya, coordinator of leadership and diversity at SLCC and organizer of Profile in Leadership. “What I took away from tonight is if you want to make a change, you have to be the person, you have to step out and take the actions and fight for what you believe is right, you must have passion for it, and you must be able to relate to other people in the society.”