By Andrew Marc Di Giovanna
In June, 31-year-old Shea Dobson unseated Democrat Connie Moran from her position as mayor of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Though Moran was a three-term incumbent facing an opponent with no previous experience holding political office, Dobson won a decisive, double-digit victory, garnering 55 percent of votes to Moran’s 45 percent.
Dobson’s story begins in 2008. While visiting his father in Tennessee, Dobson watched a presidential debate featuring former Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.), who immediately caught his attention. Feeling inspired, Dobson started closely following Congressman Paul and set out on a roadtrip to participate in the “Revolution March” on July 12 of that year. “That was really when I [realized] it’s not just a couple friendly people, there’s really something here,” Mayor Dobson commented.
Then, in 2012, Dobson began canvassing and knocking on doors for Congressman Paul’s second presidential campaign. With the help of his fellow liberty-leaning conservatives, their team “took over our entire county republican party and sent a 100 percent pro-Ron Paul slate of delegates to the state convention,” Dobson boasted.
That was only the beginning of Dobson’s involvement in the liberty movement. In 2013, he founded a Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter at the University of Southern Mississippi and was quickly promoted to Mississippi State Chair with the organization. After graduating, he moved on to work for the National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR), Concerned American Voters, Students for Liberty (SFL) and Americans for Prosperity (AFP), in addition to canvassing for Senator Rand Paul’s 2016 presidential campaign and later volunteering for Gary Johnson’s independent run. Dobson’s extensive involvement in grassroots activism and various leadership roles provided him with the experience and vision necessary to take on his next big move — a bid for the mayoral seat in Ocean Springs.
Throughout the mayoral race, Moran repeatedly criticized Dobson for his youth and inexperience, which he fiercely combated. “I’ve been on the ground working with people,” Dobson said. “Thomas Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence when he was 32. Don’t tell me that young men can’t do great things.”
Instead, Dobson used his youth to reach the voters of Ocean Springs. Having previously been a passive observer in the political scene, Dobson is familiar with the attitudes many voters have about discussing politics. “You [have to] talk to people about their average, everyday lives,” Dobson explained. Taking a more grassroots approach, Dobson’s volunteers were composed of local residents and friends of his. By having more of a politically secular base, Dobson was able to keep his message intact and reach constituents in ways his opponent could not.
After taking office on June 30th, 2017, Mayor Dobson is off to a solid start— but there are certainly challenges, such as excessive city-level regulations, that he intends to address. He is confident in the character and good-heartedness of Ocean Springs residents to work together in addressing the needs of their community. His election represents the spirit of the American people who are simply fed up with establishment, salesman type politicians, willing instead to elect a man with passion and principle. Dobson intends to “Get people working towards a common cause” for the betterment of his community.
When asked what advice he has for liberty activists seeking to run for office, Dobson said, “There’s no perfect time to take on a project. Don’t be afraid of how big the mountain is to climb. Surround yourself with good people [who ]are [willing] to work hard and do everything they can to help you out. Keep your head down when it comes to a lot of the political chatter. Work hard, and tell the truth.”Dobson will be at the YAL National Convention in Reston, VA this week to speak with and guide 400 liberty youth activists.
Andrew Di Giovanna serves as California State Chair with Young Americans for Liberty, where he empowers activists at the local level. Andrew currently studies Biology at Citrus College with an aim to practice orthodontics.