Rett Waggoner, junior in finance, was elected the next president of Auburn's Student Government Association for the 2021-2022 academic year during election callouts held on Tuesday night behind Cater Hall.
The result was announced to far fewer people than usual because of the University's COVID-19 guidelines on event attendance, creating a markedly different atmosphere than in traditional years.
Waggoner was among three candidates vying for the position this year, running against Tyler Ward, junior in political science, and Sloen Zieverink, junior in public relations. After one round of results, Waggoner faced Ward in an instant run-off round.
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In the first round of results, Waggoner received 3,472 votes, or 37.78% of all votes cast for president, Ward earned 3,234 votes, or 35.19%, and Zieverink took 2,485 votes, or 27.04%.
In the instant run-off round, Waggoner took 4,454 votes — 51.5% of the vote — while Ward received 4,194 votes or 48.5% of the total.
Waggoner ran on a platform of "student empowerment, SGA usefulness and the individual student experience." During his campaign, Waggoner stated he will seek to reform SGA election week and expressed an interest in creating a new executive SGA position — executive vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Though the University has begun distributing COVID-19 vaccines to students, faculty and staff, Waggoner and his SGA team will likely begin their term during a continued challenging time for Auburn's student body.
"I think the first thing that needs to happen is stepping in and telling students we're here for them," Waggoner said. "Whether you voted for me or you didn't, I'm excited to get to serve you; I'm excited to get to work for this University and I'm really just excited to show everyone how much I love this place."
In a pitch to high schoolers who may have recently been accepted to Auburn, Waggoner said the University is the "best school in the world."
"When I look at a high schooler and tell them why they can come here, you can look at Auburn's excellence, you can look at our tradition, you can look at what we've done well," he said. "You can also look towards the future and know that it's going to be even better. In the next year as I get to serve as SGA president, I'll make sure that's what my term is about and what my administration is about."
Waggoner is notable in that he is the son of Jon Waggoner, secretary to the Auburn University Board of Trustees. This makes him the second consecutive SGA president to have a connection to the board.
Waggoner felt this was an "odd chance," saying students shouldn't feel they need an affiliation with Samford Hall to run for SGA positions.
"There's something about Auburn where I was able to learn from my parents who both went here, and my mom served in SGA while she was here as well," he said. "Auburn people breed Auburn people."
Waggoner said he appreciated his campaign team on election day who promoted his platform until voting closed at 7 p.m.
"This whole time I've been thinking, 'We've got until 7, let's stay out there until 7,'" he said. "We were able to meet so many people [and] tell them about the platform."
Kyla Mathner, sophomore in exercise science, served as Waggoner's campaign manager.
"We started a few months back and coming from that point and knowing where we are tonight is so gratifying," Mathner said. "[Waggoner] has worked so hard for this and I know his heart and soul for Auburn is one of the biggest I have ever experienced here."
Mathner said she met Waggoner in SGA Senate and they began meeting outside student government functions with other members of SGA.
"From there we just kind of molded a really strong friendship, and he trusted me to be his campaign manager and I'm just so grateful for that," she said.
The need to physically distance during this year's SGA election week meant Mathner and the rest of the team had to seek out creative ways to campaign for Waggoner. Their main solution to this was using a QR code on the back of their shirts so passing students could scan them for more information about Waggoner's platform as well as his social media pages.
"[This] was super nice because obviously, it didn't require any contact," Mathner said.
Following the results, Ada Ruth Huntley, senior in global studies and current SGA president, said she is "excited about this new team" based on tonight's results.
"I'm really excited to get the opportunity to transition [the new leadership] over the next month and prepare them for the job," Huntley said. "I think that they're all well-equipped and well experienced and really ready to lead this university well."
Huntley's term as president has seen SGA lead the student body through a largely virtual and socially distanced school year because of the coronavirus. As the next SGA team looks to assume their positions when Auburn University begins to see the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, Huntley advised the incoming leadership to "be adaptable [and] be flexible."
"I was transitioned for a year full of Camp War Eagle pep rallies and being on the side of the field," she said. "I had to be ready on the fly to adjust at the drop of a hat. As long as you have a love for the student body of Auburn you should be good to go."
Huntley is the daughter of trustee Elizabeth Huntley of the Board of Trustees and also said that despite both her and Waggoner's links to the board, students shouldn't consider SGA an elite-led group.
"We're here to advocate for issues of the student body," Ada Ruth said. "We're not here to support our parents' agenda or anything like that. That's certainly been something that me and my mom established at the beginning of my term and certainly something that I'll encourage Rett in his term as well."
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