Post-election interview: Jess Walker, AU President

Jess Walker (2)
Jess Walker will be the next AU President, coming into office on July 1, 2013.

Read our interviews with the other sabbatical-elects:

How did you find election night itself?

It was crazy – it was also really exciting, really fun. I was definitely nervous. Stu ran a great campaign and I thought it was a really competitive race. It was nerve-wracking.

What was your main strategy during campaigning?

I really wanted to meet with the sports clubs. I thought it was really important to meet with the club captains as much as possible, because not only I’m representing them next year, but also to hear where they want to with their clubs going forward. It was also important to reach people who are not necessarily active members of sports clubs, so that they can get to know what the AU Pres actually does.

Where did you focus your energies during campaigning?

Facebook was definitely the way we tried to reach people as much as possible, for me I thought it was the best way to reach the first years I don’t have huge contact with. It was a good way to let them know what was happening, because we did some really fun things throughout the week.

If you had your time again, would you do anything differently?

If I did it again I would try to meet with even more sports clubs; I would probably try to get round to all of them, and I might have skipped my rugby match on Wednesday! Otherwise I think it was pretty successful.

By the end of campaigning, a couple of new policies seemed to have evolved: was it a case of responding to electorate feedback, or were these back-bench policies that you didn’t originally publicise?

I had been toying with a few ideas, and I wasn’t sure and I wanted to meet with clubs first to hear what they had to say, before I proposed those solid changes. I received a lot of great feedback, which is why I then decided to introduce them.

The hour-long “Saints Sport” on STAR radio for example emerged as the week went on; what was your thinking behind that, and how do you think the new Communications Officer will deal with that extra burden?

I knew that we [women’s rugby] had been invited onto the radio to appear on Sportscast, but we’d struggled to get girls to go on, and I was wondering how we change that and get the clubs involved. After speaking with some of the clubs, this seemed the best way to go. Originally I’d like both the Comms Officer and I to take it on as a project; it would be a way for me as President reaching the wider student body. With the new Comms role though, I’m not sure how much they will have workload-wise; it’ll be a conversation that we need to have as the year goes on.

Will you be taking on any of the ideas proposed by your opposition?

I like the policies that I’ve got and I want to stick to those. I was toying with the alumni idea [Owen proposed a central database of sporting alumni as a resource for clubs] for a little while, but most clubs have their own links with alumni, so it would have to be something that would need to be hashed out more. As for the Charities Officer, it’s not something I know a lot about, so I wouldn’t be looking to action it right away.

What was your highlight of the week?

I really enjoyed handing out lollipops on Friday afternoon; it sounds a bit silly, but people were like “I’ve already voted” and then I’d say “Well, have a lollipop anyway”, that was the highlight for sure. Making the video was so much fun too – I just wanted everyone involved to have fun, so it was a good time.

What is your involvement in Well-Being Week [which runs from March 11 to March 15]?

I’ll be at the Well-Being Fayre on Thursday from 2-5pm where you can come and ask questions about fitness, have your body fat percentage measured and all sorts. There’s loads of stuff happening all week, and they’re releasing a video each day with different healthy recipes, which I think is a really great idea.

Have you spoken to current AU President, Emily Griffiths about the Exec changes, and where you’re going with that?

I’m meeting with Emily this week. I need them to come up with a firm plan, telling me what the panel’s going to look like. We still have to wait until the 18th [when Governance and Nominations meet to ratify the changes], not that it will be anything different from what we know, but I need those firm plans from them about their plans for next year.

In your campaign, you stressed the need for more consultation. How do you plan to implement that?

Emily is still President, so I need to work really closely with her to talk to club captains, a lot of whom are being elected this week, to see what their actual stance is on things, and then we can go from there.

How do you respond to the accusation that you were very much Emily’s candidate?

I mean it’s disappointing that that’s how people feel. I’ve been thinking about running for quite some time, but I chose to stay out of the whole Executive changes hoopla; I thought in the end I ran my own campaign.

Are you pleased with the other election results?

I’m really excited about the rest of the Sabbatical team. They’re all lovely and I’m really looking forward to working with them


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