“At the time when you’re involved with InterVarsity you don’t realize what God prepares you for,” said Steve Mitchell, the mayor of Richardson, Texas.
As an accounting student, simultaneously earning bachelor of science and master of science degrees in 1985 at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas, UNT), Steve could not have predicted that he would end up 22 years later as mayor of his hometown, a suburb of Dallas. But because of his experiences as a leader in InterVarsity and the expertise he gained in tax law, Steve acquired training that serves him well for the job.
Due to his rigorous academic schedule, Steve didn’t participate in many of the university’s extra curricular activities. But he did serve as a resident assistant, an assistant hall director, and as a peer counselor for freshman orientation. And he was involved with InterVarsity, very involved.
“You name it, I did it,” he said. He was president of the chapter, served on the executive leadership team for two years, led small groups, went to Bible and Life training levels one through three, attended chapter camp and the School of Discipleship Training at Beartrap Ranch, and attended the Urbana 81 and Urbana 84 Student Missions Conventions.
“I often think back to all that God taught me during that time,” he reflected. Steve arrived on campus looking for InterVarsity, based on the recommendation of a friend. He found a chapter that was rebuilding with lots of leadership opportunities. “I ended up being friends with those people all through college, and I’m still friends with a lot of them today. I was really blessed by InterVarsity’s ministry.”
Steve’s staff worker at UNT was Lendol Calder, now chairman of the history department at Augustana College. “Steve was full of energy, very likable, but rough around the edges,” Lendol said.
While Steve’s leadership gifts were obvious even then, his energy was both his strength and his weakness, Lendol said. He believes that by embracing all of the opportunities that InterVarsity offered, Steve gained focus and discipline. “Over the years God has been very much at work in his life,” Lendol added.
At Urbana 84 Steve checked a box on the Urbana commitment card. “I really wanted to commit myself to a full-time ministry for Christ,” he recalled. “When I got out of college, my life was going to be focused on Christ and whatever I did was going to be influenced by that focus.”
He has traveled to Mexico and Russia on missions trips. But he decided that one of the best ways he could serve others was getting involved in municipal politics. So back in his hometown of Richardson, Texas, he became a volunteer. He served on the City Sign Control Board for ten years, then he was appointed to the City Plan Commission, where he served for four years. In May 2005 he was elected to the Richardson city council. Last summer his fellow council members selected him to serve as Richardson’s mayor.
“It’s a real honor to be elected mayor by my peers in a city of 100,000 people,” he said. “I’ve always been service oriented or ministry oriented. When I leave this world I want to feel like I’ve made a difference in people’s lives. I want to be able to say I was a good and faithful steward of what God gave me.”
Either through directly sharing the gospel or by seeing a witness through his actions, Steve believes his faithfulness to his commitment to Jesus Christ will be evident to others.
He encourages students to remember that God has a whole lifetime of opportunities waiting for them. “Embrace where you are today and learn all you can,” he said. “Because you never know where God is going to place you down the road. You just never know where you’re going to be.”