By Traci Chapman
When Mustang City Manager Tim Rooney considered hiring the first managerial intern of his tenure, who that would be turned out to be the easiest part of the decision.
“We wanted someone who really wanted to be here, who had that drive, that interest, who wanted to learn,” Rooney said. “It was no choice it all.”
That’s because Edigar Kajirwa was not the run-of-the-mill applicant. After meeting Rooney and Mustang’s assistant city manager, Justin Battles, at a series of conferences and activities, he took the initiative to reach out – seeking an internship where he could make a difference, Kajirwa said.
That’s something important to the 21-year-old University of Central Oklahoma senior. Growing up in Nairobi, Kenya, Kajirwa had a great childhood in many ways, but he also saw poverty and suffering. It was something that always stuck with him, he said.
“I know how fortunate I am to have the opportunities I’ve had, and I’m not going to waste them,” he said.
Majoring in political science with an economics minor focusing in public administration, Kajirwa came to Oklahoma City in 2014 to attend UCO. He wasn’t the first of his family to pursue an education in the United States; he joined his sister, an Oklahoma City resident for more than a dozen years, who initially moved to the state to attend Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
Traveling more than 8,600 miles to a completely different country and culture might seem daunting for many, but Kajirwa immediately immersed himself in school and found an extensive circle of friends. Growing up, the new UCO student was a natural athlete – he played soccer, rugby, cricket, squash and basketball, ran track and was a swimmer. Benefits of sports, like teamwork, respect and camaraderie, might have helped ease any transition issues he could have faced.
“I thought it might be difficult at first, but it wasn’t a challenge for me,” Kajirwa said. “I found much in common with my new friends – sports, music – and I knew what I wanted to do.”
What he wanted to do was excel, and he did. Beyond his studies, Kajirwa became a member, then president, of UCO’s Model United Nations and attended the Midwest
Model United National conference in St. Louis; as a member of the organization’s ECOSOC – Economic and Social Council – Kajirwa helped organize events raising awareness of international events and news, as well as a fundraiser benefiting people in South America.
“It is a very interesting field, and I enjoy interacting with people from different backgrounds and interests,” he said.
It was his pursuit of meaningful extracurricular activities that led to Kajirwa’s meetings with several city managers and other municipal administrative staff, including Rooney and Battles, he said.
“It was a manager and student/faculty event at UCO; they had a roundtable event for students to get to speak to city managers across Oklahoma, and I met several city managers during the event – Mr. Rooney was very informative and nice,” Kajirwa said. “I kept in touch with the city and then attended the City Management Association of
Oklahoma winter conference in February, getting the chance to meet for the first time Mr. Justin Battles.”
Beyond Kajirwa’s poise, positive attitude and educational background, it was also his interest in finding out all he could about the city of Mustang that appealed to both Rooney and Battles, the city manager said.
“It was obvious Edigar was very committed to this kind of opportunity, and we believed this would be of benefit both to him and to the city,” Rooney said.
Kajirwa, who began his internship May 14, will work in Mustang’s managerial department until Aug. 17. During that time, he will attend City Council meetings, municipal activities and events, as well as handle a variety of projects.
“This internship is based on the goal of giving me the opportunity to attain experience and give me an introduction into the governance, operations and administration of the city government,” Kajirwa. “I am very excited to have this opportunity, and I already like Mustang a great deal.”
As he completes his internship, Kajirwa will prepare for his fall 2018 UCO graduation. After that, he plans to either obtain a longer-term intern opportunity or begin a graduate program.
“It depends on the opportunities at that time,” he said. “One thing I know I want to accomplish is to start an NGO (nongovernmental organization) that will focus on the less privileged, so I can help pay for educational needs of students who don’t have opportunities that can help them move forward.
“While I’m here, I want to work on creating connections between the municipality and people, that necessary cohesiveness, which I could see is a true strength of Mr. Rooney and Mr. Battles,” Kajirwa said. “I’m happy to have this opportunity to learn from them.”