Caleb Rogers ’20 graduated from William & Mary Saturday and was elected to Williamsburg City Council Tuesday, giving him an opportunity to put his public policy major to immediate use.
Rogers, who minored in history, ran for a position on the council while finishing his final semester at William & Mary. He graduated from the university in a virtual degree conferral ceremony May 16.
“I'm filled with gratitude, thankful that William & Mary took a chance on me as a waitlist admit four years ago and thankful the Williamsburg community took a chance on a council newcomer with their vote,” Rogers said. “Having come to be a home for me, Williamsburg is an incredible city, and I plan to work as hard as I can for it.”
Rogers was one of three people to win four-year appointments on the council, including W&M alumna Barbara Ramsey ’75 and former Williamsburg Fire Chief W.P. Pat Dent. Williamsburg Mayor Paul Freiling ’83 also ran in the election, seeking his fifth term on the council.
Rogers is the third W&M student to be elected to the council. Scott Foster ’10, J.D. '14 was the first, beginning his work in 2010 shortly after his graduation. W&M student Benming “Benny” Zhang ’16 was elected to the Williamsburg City Council in 2016, becoming the first Asian-American to ever do so.
“I am pleased that Caleb Rogers will usher student leadership on the city council into the next decade and continuing the legacies that my predecessor, Scott Foster and I have established,” Zhang said in a statement.
During his campaign, Rogers focused on the local economy, specifically ways to support small businesses and increase economic diversity in Williamsburg. He said he aims to find ways to encourage alumni to build careers in the city after graduation. He has also advocated for more affordable housing to attract more families to live in the community.
“I would most like to see us accomplish a resounding rebound from the economic hardships we are facing today and tomorrow,” Rogers said. “The most immediate challenge facing the city is making sure we can maintain our important city services, without the necessity of drastically raising taxes or entirely depleting our reserve fund.”
“Additionally, I am invested in the long-term success of our amazing city,” Rogers continued. “With a job starting in July, I have started looking at Williamsburg as a young professional. And from that, I wonder what areas can I afford to live in and where are the professional communities with others my age. From this perspective, the long-term challenges of Williamsburg are how can we be innovative enough to make sure this area is one anyone could live in.”
Through campus service opportunities, Rogers participated in groups that focus on regional poverty and homelessness. He also served as a member of the city’s Planning Commission and Public Housing Advisory Committee.
At the end of his sophomore year, Rogers was appointed undersecretary of Williamsburg affairs, which is a wing of the Student Assembly's public affairs section. To bridge the gap between students and the city, Rogers drafted a bill to create the Student Residents Group. The bill passed, and the group continues to foster dialog between students and local government.
“My very first realization that there are some ways Williamsburg could change for the better was in researching local homelessness for a freshman year assignment,” Rogers said. “I found our area could provide more resources and this, along with other perceived local difficulties over the years and a precedent for younger representation, led me to ultimately want to run.
“I hope if anything it encourages others of our age to do so. Politics isn't reserved for the well-established or well-resourced, it's simply an opportunity to do good for an area, and in this case, my home.”
All election results are unofficial until certified by the Board of Elections.