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Driven to Serve: Jeff Harris

May 10, 2010

Jeff Harris won a second term as ASU Student Government Association (SGA) president in April, but will trade it for a higher position after being named the student regent on the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents in May.

Governor Rick Perry’s office informed Harris that he would have to step down from the SGA post to assume the regent position, something he sees as worthwhile.

“The Board of Regents will be more work, but nothing I can’t handle,” he said. “I will graduate next May, but I will only lack four hours that semester which will be good because the Tech system will be going into the legislative session.”

Harris also sought the Precinct 5 seat on the San Angelo City Council, but lost to local businessman Kendall Hirschfeld.

“That was good practice for running for office,” Harris said. “I’ve worked on a few campaigns, but I’ve never run one of my own. I don’t think I want for anything for trying. I learned there is a lot of hands-on time that has to be spent, especially in the district where you’re running.”

“I ultimately want to end up in politics,” he added. “I’ve done a lot of work with the Republican Party, and I restarted the College Republicans here at ASU in fall 2007. We also started a program that should keep the College Republicans running during off-election years. When there are no elections, it’s more of an informational group bringing in speakers and helping people understand what’s going on in politics.”
Harris sees himself as a catalyst for getting necessary projects accomplished. 

When he assumed the SGA post in spring of 2009, Harris looked at projects that were already in effect to make sure they were running as efficiently as possible.

“We came in and looked at the committees and the student discount program,” he said. “We are up to 48 or 49 businesses in the discount program with everything from electric companies, to food and entertainment entities, retail and pretty much anything you can look for.”

An issue that recently arose among ASU students and alumni is the lack of ASU-branded products available in the community.

“It’s one of those deals that has always been a small complaint, but it came up recently, especially with our shift to the Texas Tech system,” Harris said. “People saw a lot of Tech merchandise everywhere, but not ASU merchandise.”

The SGA started a push to increase available goods and, after meeting with administrators and local business owners, found out there was a perceived lack of demand.

“Businesses didn’t think demand would justify carrying ASU products,” he said. “We initiated the petition to get ASU products in the stores. Now, Academy, Wal-Mart and Hastings are carrying ASU products. Now people need to buy them because the more people buy the merchandise, the cheaper it will get and the more they will carry.”

A graduate from Arlington High School in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Harris is still active in the Texas Republican Party and the state College Republicans, where he serves on the executive board focusing on resolutions. When he isn’t elbow-deep in politics, Harris likes to volunteer for worthy causes.

“I’ve done a lot of work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the American Cancer Society, Meals for the Elderly and Special Olympics, and I’ve gone out to Legend Oaks Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center to help out there.”

But for now, Harris focuses on ASU students’ concerns.

He was recently instrumental in getting a student vote on a campus health care fee passed, a measure that will allow the ASU Health Clinic to keep operating at its current level and negotiate a deal with a local hospital for services and prescriptions to keep prices reasonable.

Harris also has worked with the city government to get more professional internships for students with city agencies because it helps with student retention at ASU and in San Angelo.

“My two big words are investment and involvement,” he said, “because when you start involving people in a local field where they can stay here and get their credit or experience from it, they are becoming invested in this community. Once people become more invested in the community, they are more likely to stay here to develop an identity with the community and be a part of it.”

Currently a senior, Harris plans to get a Master of Public Administration degree at ASU after getting his bachelor’s degree in May 2011.

“Really, politics is a matter of opinion on how things should be run,” he said.  “If you have office politics and you don’t agree on something, you have to agree to disagree and get on with the job.  Usually, you have an extreme option here and an extreme option there.  When you put them together and compromise, you usually get a pretty decent option that everybody can live with.”