An 18-year-old college student has been elected to serve as Mayor of a small east Arkansas city, becoming one of the youngest people to serve as a city’s top leader in the U.S.
Jaylen Smith, who is Black, was elected mayor of Earle in Tuesday’s runoff election, winning 235 votes to Nemi Matthews’ 183, according to complete but unofficial results.
He’s among the youngest mayors elected in the United States and would be the youngest member of the African American Mayors Association. Phyllis Dickerson, chief executive officer of the association, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the association’s current youngest member is Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, who is 35.
Smith is among a handful of people elected Mayor before turning 20, including Michael Sessions, who was elected Mayor of Hillsdale, Michigan, in 2005 when he was 18; and John Tyler Hammons, who was elected Mayor of Muskogee, Oklahoma, in 2008 when he was 19.
Smith, who graduated from Earle High School in May, campaigned on improving public safety and bringing new businesses, including a grocery store, to the city of about 1,800 people 25 miles (40 kilometers) northwest of Memphis, Tennessee. He is a student at Arkansas State University Mid-South in West Memphis, Arkansas.
“People looking at me, well I’m too young, he has no experience, he’s fresh out of high school.” Smith told Little Rock TV station KATV. “But I used to always tell people you have to start somewhere in life.”