Jaylen Smith graduated from high school in May. Less than a year later, the 18-year-old will be tasked with governing Earle, Arkansas, as the rural city’s newly elected mayor.
Smith, a Democrat, was elected mayor of Earle – population 1,831 – on Tuesday. He defeated his opponent, Nemi Matthews, the city’s street and sanitation superintendent, by 235 votes to 185, according to unofficial results from the Crittenden County Clerk’s office and relayed to CNN by Patrick Robinson, a 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 that it needed to be moved in.”
Frank Scott Jr., the mayor of Little Rock and someone whose advice Smith sought as he prepared for the mayoralty, said Smith will be the youngest Black mayor elected in the United States.
“I’m excited for Jaylen and the entire community in Earle as he becomes the youngest-ever African American mayor elected in the country. I’m proud of his willingness to enter into public service at such a young age and his aspirational goals for the city,” said Scott, who also serves as president of the African American Mayors Association.
Smith said it was through his work in the student government association in school that made him “passionate and determined” about serving his community at a higher level.
Although Smith is young, he has a clear vision of what he wants to see in Earle, and he knows it won’t happen overnight. He wants to rebuild the city by ridding it of abandoned homes, make the police department operate 24 hours, create jobs for the youth and implement public transportation to grocery stores.
To prepare, Smith consulted with several mayors across Arkansas. He will be sworn in during the first week of January, and he said his ultimate goal is “to show the people of Earle results.”