Last month, Webster University graduate student Kasey Summerville played a role in the nomination of President Barack Obama at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
The Arkansas Democratic Party elected Summerville to serve as a party leader, a delegate designation reserved for party officials. Summerville, a student at Webster’s campus in Little Rock, Ark., said she was eligible to run for Arkansas party leader because of her position as president of the Arkansas Black Democratic Caucus (ABDC).
“It was a very humbling experience to be elected by my fellow Democrats,” Summerville said in an email. “The overall experience was one that I will forever cherish.”
Gwyneth Williams, Webster professor of politics at the Webster Groves campus, said when the national party conventions started in the 1800s, delegates were like “free agents” and had a greater say in the nomination process. Williams said those who vote at the modern national party conventions are essentially representatives for the result of their state’s primaries. However, their voice is heard when it comes to their reactions to speakers.
“If a speaker who was expected to set things on fire kind of falls flat, pundits will talk about it in the news,” Williams said. “If it’s a speech that really electrifies the delegates, you’ll hear about that.”
Summerville said in addition to voting for the nomination, she attended the nightly convention to listen to speakers — including Obama and Bill Clinton. Summerville said she spent time during the day at various caucus meetings.
“I attended both the women’s meeting and the African-American caucus meetings,” Summerville said. “During those meetings, we listened to various democratic leaders address the delegation.”
Speakers at those meetings included first lady Michelle Obama, second lady Jill Biden and women’s equality activist Lilly Ledbetter.
Summerville said her interest in politics originated in 1998. While reading her local newspaper, she came across an advertisement that declared no one was running for an open seat in the Arkadelphia, Ark., district.
Summerville’s two children were students in that district, which pushed her to run for the position. Though she lost the race to a write-in candidate, she said the experience inspired her to run for another office in 2000.
“I ran for (Clark County) Assessor and I lost by 202 votes,” Summerville said. “Two years later, I ran for Assessor again and won after two opponents and a run-off.”
Summerville is now serving her fourth term as Clark County Assessor, where she calculates property values for tax purposes. She has been the president of the ABDC since 2010. Summerville has three courses left in Webster’s management and leadership master’s program.