In 1885, the mayor of Van Buren, Arkansas, was Alexander Aaron. He was thought to be the youngest in America at the age of 21. During a fight, Mayor Aaron was cut with a razor, and consequently shot his attacker (New York Times).
In 1972, Jody Smith was elected mayor of Ayrshire, Iowa, a town of 202 in the north-central part of the state. His election was cool, and he was only 19.
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.
Chris Portman was 19 years-old 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 upset the right people, because 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.
Do you know of a younger mayor than what I’ve share here? Leave a comment and info!
You Might Like…
- Youth Involvement in Political Campaigns
- Establishing a Government Youth Engagement Office
- Questions about Youth and Politics
- I just created this List of the youngest mayors in the United States on Wikipedia.