Jaylen Smith graduates from high school in May. Less than a year later, the 18-year-old would be tasked with running Earl, Arkansas, as the country town’s newly elected mayor.
Smith, a Democrat, was elected mayor of Earl— population 1831 – in Tuesday. He defeated opponent Nemi Matthews, the city’s street and sewer inspector, 235 to 185, according to unofficial results from the Crittenden County Clerk’s office and provided to CNN by Patrick Robinson, probate clerk.
“I didn’t run to make a name for myself,” Smith told CNN on Wednesday. “I ran because I wanted to help my community and move my community in the direction it needed to go.”
Frank Scott Jr., the mayor of Little Rock and a man whose advice Smith sought as he prepared for the mayoralty, said Smith would be the youngest black mayor elected in the United States.
“I am excited for Jaylen and the entire Earl community as he becomes the youngest African-American mayor elected in the country. I am proud of his willingness to enter public service at such a young age and his ambitious goals for the city,” said Scott, who is also president of the Association of African American Mayors.
Smith said his work in the student government association at school made him “passionate and determined” to serve his community at a higher level.
Although Smith is young, he has a clear vision of what he wants to see in Earl, and he knows it won’t happen overnight. He wants to rebuild the city by ridding it of abandoned homes, make the police work 24 hours a day, create jobs for the youth and introduce public transport to grocery stores.
To prepare, Smith consulted with several mayors in Arkansas. He will be sworn in the first week of January and said his ultimate goal is to “show the people of Earle results.”
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