EARLE, Ark. (WREG) — An 18-year-old college student has been elected to serve as mayor of a small city in eastern Arkansas.
Earle, a city of around 2,000 residents, elected Jaylen Smith in Tuesday’s runoff, 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.
“It feels good to say I have been elected mayor of this great city,” Smith said. “People say I am too young, but you have to start somewhere in life. I didn’t want to wait until I was 30 or 40 to run for mayor. I wanted to do it now.”
Smith campaigned on improving public safety and bringing new businesses to the city 25 miles northwest of Memphis, Tennessee. He is a student at Arkansas State University Mid-South in West Memphis, Arkansas.
“Earle has potential. I want to come back home. I want to feel safe and secure here. I want a grocery store,” he said.
Smith added he also made a promise to the younger generation that if they vote for him he will work to bring them more opportunities
“Getting them jobs, getting activities, just something, because I’m like them. I want something to do as well,” he said.
Earle’s next mayor still lives at home with his parents. He just graduated from high school in May and was senior class president. He said it was at Earle High School that he realized he has what it takes to be a leader. His former principal Dexter Dumas agrees.
“I saw massive leadership ability and potential from start. I had no question in my mind that he would not be elected because of the drive that he has,” Dumas said.
His twin brother, Jayden Smith, and all of his family and supporters kept him focused during the race and say they will continue to do so once he is sworn in.
“Just because everybody knows you don’t mean they gonna vote for you, so I told him you got to get up, get out and campaign, and whatever you need, I am here to help,” Jayden said.
“All of those needed things that Earle needs, he is going to have a great impact on getting that done because he is going to have so much support,” said Carloss Guess, Jaylen’s godmother.
Smith said despite his age, he expects to be able to sit down with more seasoned members of the city council to get things done after he is sworn in as mayor in January.
“What the council have to realize is I am the mayor, and secondly, it has nothing to do with age. If you are for moving the city in the right direction, you will do what say you want to do,” he said.
Smith plans on taking next semester off from Arkansas State University Mid-South to focus on his new role as mayor.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.