Young alum runs for Waco Council


By Jenna Press
Assistant City Editor

Jake Russell, a recent Baylor alum running for Waco City Council, is determined to make a difference in the city he now considers home.

Russell, who graduated in 2011 with a degree in entrepreneurship, started a T-shirt company, which he stayed with for a year before moving on to sell real estate. He now sells real estate for Magnolia Homes, a company started by Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.”

Russell is running for a position on the council of District Two, which encompasses Baylor and downtown Waco, areas that all Baylor students are familiar with.

Russell’s parents, an aunt and an uncle all went to Baylor. It was the only school he applied to. He knew Baylor and  the business school was going to be a great experience, but did not know he would end up staying in Waco.

“I developed a love for the city,” Russell said. “Within a year or so of being in Waco, I knew I had found a new home.”

Russell said during his time in the Baylor Business School, the focus on group projects and presentations was important for where he is now. He cited Dr. Marlene Reed as a professor who had a positive influence on his education at Baylor.

“I’m thrilled that he’s running for city council,” said Reed, a senior lecturer in the business school.  “He’s really made a contribution in the community,”  “He’s very bright and passionate, always looking to make a contribution.”

Russell started his T-shirt business while still in college, and used plans from classes like Reed’s to help his business get started.

“I had him in he beginning entrepreneurship course, and I could tell he really wanted to be an entrepreneur and start his own business, and he did,” Reed said. “We try to get students thinking very early about the kinds of business they might want to start.”

Reed said he is confident that Russell could have a very positive impact on Waco, as his passion isn’t just limited to business.

“I know he’ll make a difference, he’s so involved,” she said. “I don’t see that many young people as involved in the community as Jake was.”

Russell said he thinks that, if elected, he could really help the city in two areas: education and decreasing poverty.

“I want to help Waco Independent School District and the students reach their full potential,” Russell said, “and working on poverty in Waco and childhood hunger in Waco is super important.”

He said he wants to focus on increasing communication to get students on career paths they may not have known about, outside the traditional jobs such as doctor or lawyer.

“I think Waco has a ton to offer. I want to bring my excitement and enthusiasm to the board,” he said.

Russell comes from Hardin, a small Texas town with only 700 residents. “When people said there’s nothing to do in Waco, I was very surprised,” he said. “For me, it was an incredible town with a lot of history.”

If elected, Russell would serve for two years.

“Waco is at the start of something really spectacular,” Russell said. “I want to give back in some regard.”

Students can register through this Thursday to vote. The election is on May 9. Voting takes place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Vote Centers around Waco. One convenient site for students is the Waco Convention Center.

“I have no question Jake could be a great spokesperson for the people of Waco,” Dr. Reed said.

Russell said he hopes students will vote in higher numbers in this election than in years previous.

“I would encourage students to get out and vote, get involved in the local politics,” he said. “This is where you live, this is where you go to school, so it makes a lot of sense to know what’s going on.”

Dallas senior Holly Carpenter, who works at Highlands college ministry with Russell, said, “I absolutely think he would be an amazing fit for the role. He loves helping people, and has such a servant’s heart. He puts others before himself and is concerned for the greater good.”