Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

March 1, 2013

William Igbokwe, 23, Jacksonville's third mayoral candidate, is looking to unite local government more with its citizens

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE —

However you look at it, newly-proclaimed Jacksonville mayoral candidate William Igbokwe, 23, is making history.

The young Igbokwe — who comes across in interviews as candid, thoughtful and well-spoken — filed for the office Thursday afternoon. He is the first African American to run for mayor in Jacksonville. He will be running against two mayoral opponents — which makes his only the third three-way race to take place in the history of the city.

Additionally, Igbokwe is probably the youngest candidate in Jacksonville history as well. But he's a big fan of uniting youth culture with government.

"The youth should not be disenfranchised from the political process," Igbokwe said in a college magazine interview a little over a year ago.

Igbokwe is a 2012 graduate of the University of Texas in Austin with a major in political communication and a 2008 graduate of Jacksonville High School. He is looking to shake things up in a positive way and close the gap between local government and the community.

In the election, he will face incumbent Mayor Kenneth Melvin — who, at 72, is nearly 50 years his senior.

His other opponent is popular restauranteur Rob Gowin, 44, who also has expressed a desire for a greater connection between the city and its residents.

The last contested race for mayor was the previous two-way May 2011 mayoral election in which Melvin faced off against opponent Jeff Smith. Melvin was victorious by a slim, 31-vote margin.

However, the last three-way mayoral race took place in 1977. The only one before that — the very first one, was in 1955, according to Betty Thompson, Jacksonville city secretary.

Igbokwe is a well-known thinker, publicly recognized for his published opposition to the Jacksonville ISD's dress code while he was a student, according to published reports in the Jacksonville Daily Progress.

His school attire on JHS campus on one occasion, for instance, was an orange tie, neon pink belt and pastel tube socks. On the surface these seemed to buck the standardized dress code, reports show.

But in reality, this outfit was carefully calculated by Igbokwe because it fell in a "gray area" of the code — which said nothing about ties, tube socks, or even accessories. The canny Igbokwe was happy to remind school official of this each time they attempted to reproach him.

"But those days are far behind me," Igbokwe said, Friday, with a smile. "These days I'm wearing a suit and tie."

The young candidate has been living in Jacksonville about a year, pondering grad school at some point in the future.

He's is a bit of a planner and already has a slogan: "Connecting the citizenry, empowering the community."

As the slogan implies, Igbokwe is looking to make the public more aware of the job the city council does, the direct effect the council's decisions has on their lives. and enhance communication between the two.

He's well versed in the many ways a candidate can approach the media for campaign publicity. A while back, he appeared in the publication "Study Breaks Magazine" published by the University of Texas at Austin.

In that publication, he outlined his entire platform to run for office amid a barrage of photos and poses — including one showing off his abs.

Politically-speaking, Igbokwe said he intends to hit the ground running. He has a five-member campaign team (a tight-knit group of young colleagues), whose job is to handle every aspect of his campaign.

Igbokwe believes in being prepared and campaigning ferociously.

"We've got to do this," Igbokwe said. "There are no illusions here that we're the underdog, but we're going to run a race."

He is the oldest of four Jacksonville children. The others include Andrew, 17, a local high school junior; Angel, 13, a JISD seventh grader; and Lilian, 20, who attends UT Tyler.

His mother, Monica Igbokewe, is a local minister and his father, Godwin Igbokewe, is a pharmacist.

Both have been very supportive of his campaign plans, the young candidate said.

"They were a bit surprised at first, but they got on board," Igbokwe said.