At age 26, Delandrion Woods is the youngest person to serve on the Hillsboro (Alabama) City Council. Having grown up in the area, earned his bachelor’s degree at nearby University of Alabama in Huntsville and worked for the local City of Decatur’s parks and recreation department, his community ties run deep. On top of that, he is now enrolled in Florida Tech’s MBA program through our Huntsville education center. To say he keeps busy is an understatement. We caught up with Delandrion to see what it takes to balance it all, what motivates him to succeed and what’s next on the horizon.
Q: So far, what do you think about Florida Tech’s MBA program through the Huntsville education center?
A: I’m loving it. It’s challenging, and it’s different than anything I’m used to. It’s a lot of application, which I guess is how it is with any graduate program, but I’m loving it. The professors are good—they’re real, and they’re realistic. They understand that we are adults—we work, we have full schedules and families. So, they’re very accommodating to not overload us, but they still challenge us.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a graduate degree? Why Florida Tech?
A: Well I’m kind of an education fanatic. I already had my mind set on doing an MBA and a DBA, as well. So it was going to happen, it was just something personal that I’ve wanted to do. I had fraternity brothers that graduated from Florida Tech, and I heard nothing but good things about the program. They spoke highly of the program, so I figured I would give it a try myself.
Q: How has the experience getting your degree from an education center been different from earning it through an on-campus or fully online program?
A: I’m very traditional with classwork. I like to know that I can speak to my instructor one on one, so that, because we build that reputation inside the classroom, it’s easier to communicate with them outside of the classroom. It makes doing the work that much easier knowing that you have the instructor right there with you. I wouldn’t say a personal relationship with them, but a very good relationship with them. One of the classes that I’m taking now, though, is completely online. I’ve found that, although I wouldn’t pick it over a traditional classroom, it’s just as good.
Q: How long have you been on the Hillsboro City Council? How did that come about?
A: This is year two. I was appointed about a year into the term in the summer of 2017, but I do plan on running in the election for 2020. It’s a small town, and the former council member—actually the spot I took—he recommended me. We’re really close—he lives right up the street from me—and we walk every morning. At the time, I was working for parks and recreation for the City of Decatur. We were walking and talking about it, and he just kind of talked me into it. Since high school, I had always wanted to get involved in politics, but I just never had the opportunity. So, I started going to the council meetings and showing myself as friendly. The council members all knew me, just not in that capacity, so he made a recommendation for me to get appointed, and the council voted me in.
Q: Is serving on the city council a full-time job, or do you have a separate position?
A: This is not full time. I was working full time for the City of Decatur as an assistant supervisor over one of the community centers that the parks and recreation department oversees, basically running the ins and outs of the programs at that community center. However, I’m actually in transition of jobs right now, because I just accepted an offer for a position with a government contractor in Huntsville. I’m getting more into my undergrad field of finance, so hopefully, this MBA will eventually point me toward a higher salary, of course, but also a management- or corporate-level position.
Q: What are some things you want to accomplish while on city council?
A: My plan is to build a community center. I would like to see a community center fully developed with a plethora of programs run within the center—that’s my ultimate goal. Hopefully, there will be a gym involved, community meeting rooms, some programming for the town and a senior center and child development center within that community center. That’s my goal.
Q: How has becoming a council member affected your community relationships?
A: Well, I’m from the area originally. What I’ve noticed is that when you grew up in a town and around people, they view you as a child or their baby. But when you grow up and don’t move away, you can end up taking on a position that gives them a different view of who you are and what you can do. So it’s developed them a lot, and people have come to respect me more as a man versus as a young child who grew up in the town.
Q: Do you find that being the youngest council member is an advantage or a disadvantage?
A: I was appointed at 24. It is an advantage in the sense that I bring on a new perspective. I’m young, so I have a different viewpoint on things, and I bring a different perspective with my education, as well. But it can also be a disadvantage because, at times, it’s “You’re too young, what do you know?”—that kind of thing. But it can be a wake-up call to me, too, because they have some life experiences that I have yet to go through. So, they keep me in check. It’s kind of a balance—we work together.
Q: What made you decide to go into public service?
A: I am a people person at heart. Going through high school, I had always enjoyed politics somewhat, and in the back of my head, I guess I have just always known I would one day be in office. I didn’t know what office or in what capacity; I just knew that I would be involved in politics. I’m known within my community and the surrounding communities for my involvement in church and some community programs, so it’s something I was just kind of put on this earth to do. When the door was opened to me a few years ago, I just needed to walk through it. So now, I’m just trying to excel where I am and get to the next level later on. Hopefully, with the experience I’ve gained being on the council, I could run for mayor, and then even go to state representative or onto the senate.
Q: Between city council, transitioning from one full-time job to another, school and a personal life, how do you balance it all?
A: I just do it. I’m very involved in my church, so I don’t plan anything on those days. I officiate in basketball and volleyball, so I block out time for that, and when stuff comes up, I put it in the calendar on my phone and go. When I go to work, I put the work hat on. When I leave work, I take that hat off and go to the next thing. You just do it.
Q: What advice do you have for people thinking about running for public office?
A: Always keep an open ear, try to keep a closed mouth and watch to learn. People aren’t necessarily trying to hurt you—although, some will—so have tough skin. Know who you are, know what you’re grounded in and don’t be afraid to learn from the next person.