But in elections across the U.S. last week the country saw a slew of action from the outskirts of the youth rights movement: A variety of candidates from across the country drew national attention, and if leveraged right, they could draw attention to the efforts of activists working for civic engagement, youth rights and intergenerational equity.
Michael Sessions turned eighteen in September, and ran a write-in campaign in his hometown of Hillsdale, Michigan. Beating a 51-year-old incumbent, Sessions ran as an anti-establishment candidate in a town of 8,000+ and won the support of the town’s symbolically powerful firefighter’s union.
A recent USA Today article also reported that Jeffrey Dunkel was one month shy of 19 when he was sworn in as mayor of tiny Mount Carbon, Pennsylvania in January 2002. He was reelected this week. Chris Portman was 19 at his inauguration in Mercer, Pennsylvania was originally elected the same month. Portman resigned before the end of his first term after it was alleged that he was too immature for the position. He routinely rode around in police cars with officers and had an MTV camera crew follow him extensively.
A little digging shows that Luke Ravenstahl is the youngest mayor of any major American city today. After becoming mayor of Pittsburgh in September 2006, Ravenstahl began his political career at 23, right after graduating college. As a city council member, Ravenstahl was elected Council President in 2003, and then was appointed mayor in 2005 after the previous mayor died in office. By defeating a Republican challenger in 2006 he ensured his office until 2010. Christopher Seeley of Linesville, Pennsylvania and Sam Juhl of Roland, Iowa are two other eighteen-year-olds who were elected mayor last week, as well.
Things aren’t all rosey for young people in politics. The campaign for Brett McClafferty to become mayor of Streetsboro, Ohio must have pissed off the right people. Right after his near-loss campaign to get on the ballot, the city council raised the minimum age for candidates to be 23-years-old.
Here’s an interesting PSA from Do Something with one story. Later on I’ll share an analysis of all this: I think there is a much more important point to be made instead of simply suggesting young people should run for office. Stay tuned…
- I just created this List of the youngest mayors in the United States on Wikipedia.
CommonAction staff is available to train on Youth Engagement and much more. Contact me to talk about the possibilities by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (360)489-9680.