Imagine having polycystic kidney disease. Life would change drastically and very quickly.
For Wiley Bird, the disease dispelled both of his kidneys and he spent one year living on dialysis as he waited for a transplant to come through.
Thankfully in 2001, Wiley received an answered prayer when a donated kidney match came through. However, 10 years later his body rejected this kidney and he was yet again kidney-less, with many emergency surgeries for a catheter and hooked onto a dialysis machine which left him without a job and on disability, and once again on the transplant waiting list – hoping for a miracle.
Enter Nick Steward, a new city councilman in Clarksville, Tennessee and Leadership Institute graduate.
Upon hearing the unfortunate news, Nick Steward volunteered his kidney to Wiley, a stranger who happened to be a former coworker’s husband.
After three months of preparation, the two men went into surgery eleven weeks ago and spent four days in the hospital. While their recovery has been slow and steady, we are pleased that Nick’s kidney has been accepted by Wiley’s body.
Nick’s last name—Steward—is more than just a name; it’s a way of life: being a servant-leader to those around him and in his community.
“Much of my life has been committed to serving others. My choice to donate a kidney to someone in need was a continuation of that service,” Nick shared with me. “I have been an organ donor since I was 18 years old and hearing that someone was in need now, I asked, ‘why not donate while I'm alive if I'm able and it will improve someone else's life.’”
In November 2010, Nick was elected with 68 percent of the vote to the Clarksville, Tennessee City Council.
In this position, he along with the mayor and other council members set departmental policies for the police, fire, street, parks and recreation, gas and water, electric, and others. In addition to setting policies they also make decisions on projects such as hiring additional police officers, building additional fire stations, and make several zoning and economic development choices each month.
“As individuals we have a limited reach and impact on the future. We can raise our children, have an impact on those around us, and work hard to improve our communities, but once we are dead and gone our impact is usually short lived,” Nick said. “Getting involved in public policy as an advocate, campaign operative, or elected official is one way that we can leave a legacy for generations to come.”
And leaving “a legacy for generations to come” is exactly what he’s doing.
“Being an elected official has been a rewarding experience which has provided me with a high level of responsibility. Setting personnel policies for more than 1500 employees and managing an $80-plus million budget has reinforced the importance of performance-based metrics and efficiency that the military and business world taught me,” Nick shared. “Directly representing 11,000 people and developing a vision for 134,000 people has given me the opportunity to devise and implement complex plans.”
Since 2009 Nick has been a REALTOR with Keller Williams Realty and has received several distinctions through his involvement in serving Middle Tennesseans’ real estate needs.
In 2011, Nick was the recipient of the Community Involvement Award and has been a member of the government affairs committee since 2011.
Before becoming a REALTOR, Nick was a solider for the U.S. Army. After graduating from Liberty University in the summer of 2005, Nick became an automated logistical specialist with the Army until March 2009. During these years, he served in South Korea, Fort Campbell in Kentucky, and in Afghanistan.
Since 2003, Nick has been a volunteer or paid staffer in more than 30 political campaigns in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Some of the more notable races have included: Bob McDonnell for Virginia AG, Bob McDonnell for Virginia Governor, Bill Haslam for Tennessee Governor, and Deanna McLaughlin for City Council in Tennessee.
Nick’s work has garnered recognition from many.
In 2004, he was bestowed the Republican National Committee President’s Circle Award for his “dedication to voter registration and your tireless efforts to grow the Republican Party.”
From 2009-2010, he was selected to serve on the Clarksville Public Building Authority. In 2011, Nick was chairman of the Clarksville Alzheimer Association Walk and in that year, Gov. Bill Haslam appointed him to the Tennessee Pest Control Board.
He’s also a member of the Clarksville area Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee and former chair of the Montgomery County Young Republicans.
Nick loves other cultures: he’s lived in six countries, traveled to 14, and speaks basic Tagalog (Filipino) and basic Korean. He’s also crazy about soccer, boxing, NASCAR, hockey, cooking, and chess.
Nick received his bachelor's in business administration from Liberty University in 2005 and first learned of the Leadership Institute and President Morton Blackwell there.
But it wasn't until January 2010 that Nick took LI's Campaign School and LI's Future Candidate School in August 2011.
"The Leadership Institute's Campaign School provided me with the opportunity to organize the skills I had acquired through my experience working on campaigns and provided me with more tools that I was able to use during the year," Nick said. "During the first part of 2010 I used what I learned at LI to provide crisis management assistance to one of my future colleagues. Then, during the spring of 2010 I was part of the five person leadership team running the primary campaign for now Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam in my county. I led the door-to-door efforts."
LI training didn't just help Nick's colleagues; it aided his own campaign toward victory!
"Going into the summer and fall I was able to use the skills I learned at the Leadership Institute in my own city council campaign, which resulted in a victory with 68 percent of the vote," Nick said. "As an elected official I have also used the lessons learned at LI lectures regarding mobilizing citizens to aid in convincing the council to implement policies I felt were important."
You too can take LI training -- specifically the week-long, intensive Future Candidate School, which is coming up the first week of August.
"LI is a must for anyone thinking about running for office, helping others get elected, or playing an advocacy role that is serious about winning," Nick said. "Simply having the right ideas is not enough to get us across the finish line. We conservatives must take time to learn how to organize and communicate our message if we are going to be effective. The Leadership Institute provides the tools we need for success."
Please congratulate Nick Steward on his recovery, and please welcome him as LI’s Graduate of the Week.
To nominate a Leadership Institute graduate or faculty member to be featured as LI's spotlight of the week, please contact LI's Director of External Affairs Lauren Day, formerly Lauren Hart, at Lauren@LeadershipInstitute.org.