A pivotal moment in history for politics.
EARLE, Ark. — On Tuesday, Dec. 6, 18-year-old Jaylen Smith was elected as mayor in a runoff election for a small Arkansas city near Memphis, Tennessee. The recent high school graduate will be one of the youngest mayors elected in the United States.
Smith, a freshman at Arkansas State University Mid-South, will become the youngest Black mayor elected in the United States in January. Running as a Democrat, he defeated his opponent, Nemi Matthews, 235 votes to 183, according to unofficial results from the Crittenden County Clerk’s office and CBS News.
According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Matthews and Smith are family friends and have known each other for years. Matthews told reporters that there was no bad blood between the two.
“No animosity, anything, far as me and Jaylen are concerned,” said Matthews. “Everything has been cordial. If I can help him do anything, I’ll do it, and likewise with him,” as reported by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
Leading up to the election, many local news stations reported on Smith’s campaign. Smith told reporters that his focus as mayor would be to improve public safety and transportation, tear down abandoned houses and bring a grocery store to the city.
Smith told CNN that his past experience working in the student government association at his school made him “passionate and determined” to serve his community. He has had several leadership positions during middle and high school, including president of the student government association.
Smith also shared that he has a learning disability. According to The Hill, Smith stated that he was diagnosed with the impairment at a young age. He also shared that the learning disability affects his test scores, therefore preventing him from attending a prestigious school. With his new role, he hopes to help those around the nation.
“This disability does not take away from what I am able to do,” said Smith, “In fact, it motivates me more to achieve greatness. To add, I was embarrassed for taking special education courses, but I had to realize I cannot help who I am,” as reported by The Hill.
This isn’t the first time someone under 20 years old has been elected as mayor. As reported by the Associated Press, there have been two others who have been elected. In 2005, 18-year-old Michael Sessions was elected mayor of Hillsdale, Michigan. At 19-years-old, John Taylor Hammons was elected as mayor of Muskogee, Oklahoma in 2008.
“People looking at me, well I’m too young, he has no experience, he’s fresh out of high school,” Smith told reporters from KATV, a Little Rock television station, “But I used to always tell people you have to start somewhere in life.”
To prepare for his upcoming role, Smith has met with several mayors and representatives across Arkansas. He told CNN his ultimate goal is “to show the people of Earle results.”