Hometown: Millington, TN
Major: Political Economy
By Aaron Banks
This past summer, Frankie Dakin did what many of us will only talk about doing: he ran for public office. More impressively, he won. Dakin, a member of the Rhodes Class of 2014, was elected to a seat on the Board of Aldermen in his hometown of Millington, TN. Many might wonder what would motivate a college junior to run for political office and how he could win against an incumbent who held the position for more than a decade. The USA Today College website even noted Dakin’s win in a article that ran Oct. 22. But Frankie’s victory came as no surprise to those who have witnessed his on-campus leadership and activism throughout the community.
A Political Economy major, Frankie is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, a prestigious leadership organization, is a leader of Sigma Nu fraternity, and also works with the youth of Memphis as part of the BRIDGES program. He decided to add alderman to his list of accomplishments when he recognized that a critical segment of Millington voters seemed to have little or no voice in city politics. His moment came in October 2011 when the city was rocked by a bribery scandal involving the mayor’s office and the police department. The town has moved on from the scandal, but its impact was reflected in the August 2012 aldermen elections. In a small town where aldermen often go unopposed, out of the seven on the board, only two will return as incumbents.
Frankie’s motivation to run came from a feeling that, “There was this undercurrent of people without a voice; this vast majority of people who weren’t being represented.” Many of these underrepresented people were the youth that small towns such as Millington are now finding in desperately short supply. As a recent graduate of Millington Central High School, Frankie is in a position to represent the youth of Millington as they have never been represented before. And while his own youth is proving to be one of his greatest assets as a public official, he initially met opposition because of his age.
Soon after he declared that he would be running for alderman, a change to the town’s charter was proposed that would have moved the age requirement for political office to 21. Since Frankie was 20 at the time of the election, this was seen by many as an attempt to keep him from running. Soon after the change was proposed, a picket outside city hall appeared, with constituents sporting signs with positive messages such as “Run, Frankie, Run.” Within a few hours of the protest, enough people had emailed the mayor for the provision to be removed, leaving nothing to stop Dakin from running and winning the election—except for the 12-year incumbent he was running against.
Frankie and his team of three unpaid interns had quite a task ahead of them. “We knew that we couldn’t count on any votes of people that we didn’t shake hands with personally,” he recalls. The team managed that monumental task by knocking on the door of every voting address in Millington—that’s almost 3,000 homes! Figuring that almost every young person who planned to vote was likely a vote for his campaign, Frankie also began a voter registration drive at his former high school, which resulted in more than 200 high school students registered. With nearly every registered voter in Millington now having met Dakin, he was able to win the election by a convincing 16 percent, or around 300 votes.
Now that the election is over, the real work begins for Frankie, who will have to balance the ever-challenging academic workload of Rhodes with the real-life duties that go along with being an alderman. Already, Frankie has been able to use his position as alderman as an immediate practical application for what he’s been learning in class. “Maybe I’ll have something to offer to a class, but really, I’m just learning more, and I’m already thinking about how I can write my papers on what I’m doing in Millington,” he says. Spoken like a true multitasking scholar/alderman.