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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Past ASUA presidents welcome new leader

    Vila Jarrell, owner of Vila Thai Cuisine, stands behind ASUA President-elect Chris Nagata as she welcomes him and former ASUA presidents to the restaurant on Saturday night. ASUA representatives said they were happy about the turnout.
    Vila Jarrell, owner of Vila Thai Cuisine, stands behind ASUA President-elect Chris Nagata as she welcomes him and former ASUA presidents to the restaurant on Saturday night. ASUA representatives said they were happy about the turnout.

    Seventeen past Associated Students of the University of Arizona presidents spanning nearly 35 years gathered at a dinner to pass the torch to ASUA president-elect Chris Nagata.

    After more than a decade hiatus, the ceremony last Friday marked the revival of a tradition that began in the late 1980s in which former ASUA presidents welcome the new voice of UA students.

    “”We really want the new student body presidents to know that there’s this whole wealth of people out there who are willing to help them, willing to give them tips, advice on what the past was like,”” said 2000-2001 ASUA president Benjamin Graff. “”About a year ago we started planning (the event), started sending out invitations and we’ve had an amazing response.””

    Graff, along with past ASUA presidents Francisco Aguilar (1999-2000) and Alistair Chapman (2004-2005), made up the driving force behind the event’s resurrection. The dinner held this year at Vila Thai Restaurant, 972 E. University Blvd., and was the largest gathering of ASUA presidents in UA history.

    Washington D.C. attorney and 1976-1977 ASUA president Patrick Mitchell traveled to Phoenix on business around the same time the ceremony took place.

    “”There’s a great history and legacy here,”” Mitchell said. “”Folks who really care about (ASUA presidency), taking it seriously. It’s shaped careers.””

    At its core, Mitchell said the responsibilities of the current ASUA president are similar to those of past presidents.

    “”The issues have evolved. I don’t think the process or the impact on the student is any different,”” he said. “”(The presidency) was just a lot of work between the university committees, functioning of the student government association itself, working with the legislature, and working with the (Arizona) Board of Regents that Tommy (Bruce) has done.””

    With a presidential term lasting only one year, it’s tough to get many projects done, but at the same time it’s rewarding to finish a project a previous president started, said 1979-1980 ASUA president and Phoenix attorney Philip “”Flip”” May.

    “”When we get together and talk about our experience, our year or two years at ASUA, somebody will say, ‘You know, we really started working hard on the Rec Center,’ and then somebody who was eight years after that will say, ‘Yeah, we were there when we opened the Rec Center,'”” May said. “”It’s kind of fun to get together with the people who set the table for you, and it’s kind of fun to get together with the people who close the deal on project you could never do in a year.””

    Nagata, who is the first Asian-American ASUA president, said he was honored to be a part of the ceremony and is looking forward to serving his time in office.

    “”Not everybody gets this opportunity and I consider myself very fortunate to have it and I want to just make the most out of every moment that I have,”” Nagata said.

    Nagata said the current economic situation will prove to be one of the tougher tests during his term.

    “”The challenging economics is going to present itself in multiple facets. Whether that’s budget, whether that’s elections,”” he said. “”I think our response to the economic times is going to be a challenge, but with every challenge presents a tremendous opportunity, so we’ll be making sure that we seize those opportunities.””

    Despite all the challenges and trials he’ll face, current ASUA president Tommy Bruce said Nagata shouldn’t let himself get overwhelmed.

    Bruce is the first ASUA president to complete two consecutive terms and will formally hand over his responsibilities to Nagata during the ASUA Inauguration on the UA Mall May 1.

    “”You can give as much time as you can, you can reach out to as many people as you can, and you can work as hard as you possibly can,”” Bruce said. “”You will never make everybody happy, but at the end of the day, as long as you know that you’ve worked hard to improve the lives of the students who you represent, you’re doing the best you can,””

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