When Aberdeen native Roderick Van Daniel was a 17-year-old senior in high school he wondered curiously of what it would be like to one day serve the people of his hometown as a leader for the state of Mississippi. And fortunately for him he got a rare, up close and personal experience of the role of a state leader while gleefully serving as a page for former District 36 Representative David Gibbs.
That was in 1997 when Van Daniel got this once in a lifetime opportunity to serve in the Mississippi state capitol where he became more and more fascinated with the idea of being a public servant and giving back to the people and state he calls home. Seeing how laws are created and enacted and observing the process of getting bills passed gave him the desire to one day run for state office. And in only a few short weeks Van Daniel may very well get the chance to serve as a state leader, as he has announced his plan to run for the vacant District 36 representative seat.
â€śI know that I want to be that voice for my people, the citizens of my district in a way that can transform the minds of our youth to help inspire them to believe that one day, too, that they can become someone that can make a difference or just accomplish their dreams and aspirations in life,â€ť Van Daniel said. â€śDavid Gibbs inspired me and other representatives of his status gave me hope that one day I could be an instrumental leader in my community to help them believe that our visions and aspirations for our communities matter too.â€ť
As am advocate for the best quality of life for all Mississippians, Van Daniel said one of his top priorities is education, which he says â€śis the cornerstone to developing the minds of the youth as well as an adult. Learning is a life process.â€ť
Van Daniel himself took full advantage of the educational opportunities the state offers, having graduated from Mississippi State University with a doctorate degree in Rural Community College Leadership and a masterâ€™s degree from MSU in Sports Administration. A graduate of Aberdeen High School, Van Daniel also studied as Itawamba Community College where he received his Associateâ€™s of Arts in Sociology and attended Hinds Community College, earning an AA in barber studies. His education also extends to the Birmingham School of Law as well as the North Carolina Central University School of Law.
Besides education, Van Daniel said heâ€™s passionate about make a change in economic development, fair treatment of the judicial system and health care in the state of Mississippi. Making sure Mississippiâ€™s high-schoolers and college students have adequate career opportunities to turn to after graduating is key for future growth in development, he said.
â€śEconomic development is important to the fabric of our communities, which would develop our infrastructure to become strong with the belief that all citizens can work and give back leadership and mentor to our children (who) will become leaders of tomorrow,â€ť he stated. â€śWe must believe that our counties of Monroe, Clay, and Lowndes matter for the visions of tomorrow for our children and for the growth of Mississippiâ€™s role in America.â€ť
Van Daniel is the first Monroe County resident who intends to run for District 36, a race in which he will compete so far with two Clay County residents â€“ Rev. Eddie Longstreet and Carl Gibbs, son of the late Rep. David Gibbs.
Governor Phil Bryant is expected to set the special election some time this week for District 36 state representative.