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Michael Skiles chooses not to return to NWWNC, leaves room for new leadership

Michael Skiles, the outgoing North Westwood Neighborhood Council president, did not run for reelection. Skiles plans to remain involved in the UCLA community through alumni associations, but wants to focus on spending time with his family and exploring other career opportunities. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Maanas Oruganti

June 1, 2021 5:34 p.m.

This post was updated June 2 at 1:59 p.m.

Michael Skiles, the 2019-2021 North Westwood Neighborhood Council president, will not be returning to the NWWNC.

Skiles did not run for a 2021-2023 board seat but plans to remain involved in the UCLA community through alumni associations, he said. Skiles said he decided to leave the NWWNC board to focus on his family and pursue other career opportunities.

While a philosophy doctoral student, Skiles was the UCLA Graduate Students Association president for three terms. After graduating in 2019, he served as the NWWNC president until present.

[Related link: Michael Skiles to graduate from UCLA, has no plans to retire from Westwood]

During his tenure as NWWNC president, Skiles, along with Ernesto Arciniega, a 2019-2021 NWWNC board member, worked to provide the community with updates on UCLA housing construction projects in Westwood, supported the opening of small businesses and invited several community members to present on issues in Westwood, Arciniega said.

Skiles said he thinks if the NWWNC founding members remained in their positions for too long, current students’ voices would no longer be heard in Westwood. NWWNC members must make space for new leaders because student experiences change over time, he added.

“Above all, ideologically, I have always felt that student leaders should serve and make an impact,” Skiles said. “But once they’ve made their impact, (they should) pass on the torch for other student leaders to take the reins.”

Grayson Peters, a former NWWNC vice president and UCLA alumnus, said he felt that Skiles and the NWWNC were unique in their willingness to encourage student participation. Peters added that he ran for positions on the board as an undergraduate partly because of Skiles’ encouragement.

The NWWNC was created in 2018 as a new neighborhood council for students to have a platform in the Los Angeles City Council after Skiles worked with Westwood Forward, a former coalition of Westwood stakeholders and students, Skiles said.

“On the one hand, it might look like Westwood Forward is ending or an era is ending,” Peters said. “I think he’s done a really good job of bringing people like me, people younger than him, into the conversation. … I’m really confident about the legacy he’s leaving behind.”

Through the NWWNC, students can formally express their opinions on proposed housing projects, mass transit projects and updates to land use ordinances like the Westwood Village Specific Plan, Skiles added. This plan dictates land use and development policy in Westwood.

Arciniega said one of Skiles’ notable achievements was his effort to open doors for students to express their voices in the NWWNC.

“(Skiles) has allowed many students to get involved in different organizations,” Arciniega said. “Those opportunities have been able to open other doors for these students.”

Skiles said he hopes the future NWWNC maintains a strong relationship with the council member who will represent Westwood so that the NWWNC’s advice will efficiently translate to policy actions.

“I’m forever grateful for everyone in the community who has over the years worked either to create the council or further its mission,” Skiles said.

The 2021-2023 NWWNC board will be sworn into office Wednesday.

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Maanas Oruganti | News senior staff
Oruganti is a News senior staffer. He was also the 2020-2021 Enterprise editor and a News staff writer in the City & Crime and Science & Health beats 2020. He is also a fourth-year cognitive science student at UCLA.
Oruganti is a News senior staffer. He was also the 2020-2021 Enterprise editor and a News staff writer in the City & Crime and Science & Health beats 2020. He is also a fourth-year cognitive science student at UCLA.
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