It’s no secret that the political leaders in the U.S. are getting old. Today the average age of Democratic congress members is 72, and more than half of the Senators up for reelection in 2018 are over the age of 65, according to Quorum. While these older elected officials claim Millennials don’t have enough experience to hold office, the generation of 18 to 34-year-olds that now makes up 30% of the American population are running for office. And they’re winning.
Many of these young leaders are focusing on two things that have proven successful: accountability and transparency. Meet the youngest politicians who are making a difference right now. Many of them are not only the youngest in history to hold their position but the first female or colored person as well.
Michael Tubbs Is the 27-Year-Old Mayor of Stockton, California
Being the mayor of any city isn’t an easy job, but it’s especially difficult in Stockton, California. Michael Tubbs, 27, is a native of Stockton, where high crime rates, bankruptcy, and a housing crisis are among the city’s worst problems. After graduating from Standford in 2012, Tubbs ran for Stockton City Council and won. His campaign even caught the attention of Oprah Winfrey, who donated $10,000 to his cause.
He then announced he was running for mayor in September 2015 and was endorsed by none other than Barack Obama. Tubbs won the seat with an overwhelming 70.6% of the vote. This made him both the city’s first black mayor as well as the youngest person to hold that position when he was 26. He’s now working to improve conditions for residents and has tackled tough issues like police shootings.
26-Year-Old Mayor Matt Gentry Wants More Transparency
One demand that resonates with Millennials is to have more transparency in U.S. government. Young people who are starting their adult lives want to know, where are my tax dollars going? Is my representative working on the issues? Is my voice being heard? In Lebanon, Indiana, Matt Gentry was thinking the same thing.
At 26-years-old, Gentry ran for mayor and won, making him the youngest person to hold the seat. He shook up the norm from the beginning, as his first order of business was to remove the door from the mayor’s office and declared that he wants his administration to be “as citizen-friendly as we can possibly be.” He also aims to improve education and job opportunities.
Danica Roem Wants To Improve Quality of Life for Virginians
Danica Roem was inspired to change legislation after former President George W. Bush proposed to ban same-sex marriage in 2004. The 33-year-old Roem is not only a Millennial politician but the first openly transgender person to be elected and serve in U.S. state legislature. On November 7, 2017, Roem became a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, defeating Bob Marshall, who held the position for 13 years.
Although she admits it took a lot for her to be convinced to run for office, her campaign ended up raising $500,000 and was endorsed by Victory Fund, EMILY’s List, Run for Something and other organizations. One of her main priorities is improving commute times and overall quality of life for people in her District 13 of Virginia.
Elise Stefanik Is the Youngest Member of Congress
Not only is Elise Stefanik the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress, she’s also the youngest out of all of the House of Representatives. Elected at 30-years-old, Stefanik represents New York’s 21st district. The Harvard grad worked with President George W. Bush’s administration and with Paul Ryan’s campaign being forging a campaign of her own.
Many Millennials say they want to hear less about political parties and focus on the issues, and Stefanik agrees. She’s co-chair of the Tuesday Group, which she says, “is comprised of members who are willing to work across the aisles to advance policy solutions for their constituents, and I look forward to working on critical issues facing our nation in this important role.”
Mayor of Compton Aja Brown Negotiated Peace Between Gangs
Compton, California’s rough reputation precedes itself, as its often named in the rap and hip-hop world with its affiliation with gangs and violence. The city also has a young population, with an average age of 25, and the community was ready to welcome a young Mayor who promised change. That’s when Aja Brown stepped in.
After graduating from USC and working as an urban planner, Brown ran for Mayor of Compton at the age of 31 and won in July 2013. She became the city’s youngest mayor with a platform that promised to create a “New Vision for Compton.” In 2014, Brown reached out to rival gang leaders and helped negotiate a peace agreement. She was able to decrease violent activity and crime by an incredible 65% compared to 25 years prior.
Daniel Riemer Defeats State Assembly Member Who Was Elected Before He Was Born
When Daniel Riemer decided to run for Wisconsin State Assembly in 2012, the 26-year-old went up against Peggy Krusick. She had held the seat since 1983, three years before Riemer was even born!
Riemer graduated law school before running for office. He ended up beating Krusick 85.4% to 12.8%. The Democrat does admit that ageism, as well as the age gap, can be an issue in communication and changing policies in U.S. government. He says, “I get along better with younger Republicans than some older Democrats.”
The 31-Year-Old Mayor of Ithaca Quickly Solved Their Budget Problems
Like everyone on this list, Svante Myrick faced claims that he was “too young” to serve in office when he ran for Mayor of Ithaca, New York at 25 years old. Although he grew up in a poor family who were sometimes homeless, Myrick persevered and graduated from Cornell University. Then, he set his sites on improving the community of Ithaca for families and future generations.
When he was sworn into office in 2012, Myrick’s administration was faced with a $3.5 million budget deficit. His smart budgeting and policy reform paid off the deficit within two years. Under his term, the city is now a Certified Living Wage Employer, making life better for working families and the middle class. Myrick is also the city’s first black mayor and received a John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award for his commitment to public service.
31-Year-Old Mayor Erin Stewart is Running for Lieutenant Governor
When she was 26-years-old, Erin Stewart won her race for Mayor of New Britain, Connecticut. Her achievement made her the city’s youngest mayor in history, and the city’s second female to hold the position. Much like Matt Gentry, the 26-year-old mayor mentioned earlier, Stewart ran on a platform of increased transparency and accountability.
She also repaired the city’s budget, closing the $30 million deficit and even put $14.9 million into a rainy day fund for when the city needs it. Sorry, what was that about Millennials not knowing how to save money? After a successful first term, Stewart was reelected. But she’s not stopping there. Now 31-years-old, Stewart threw her hat into the ring for Lieutenant Governor in 2018.
31-Year-Old Mayor Matt Bogusz Is Making Owning a Business Easier
Born and raised in Des Plaines, Illinois, Matt Bogusz became Mayor of his hometown at 26-years-old. Since then he’s helped business owners by reducing the time it takes to obtain a business license from eight weeks to two weeks. He’s also focused on city beautification projects, and kicked off a “Curb Appeal Challenge” to encourage residents to take pride in their homes and neighborhoods.
City advisors that Bogusz chose not to reappoint were quick to criticize the Mayor’s age, but he didn’t take it to heart. “The research suggests it’s an advantage and, from personal firsthand experience, I would certainly count relatively younger as age an advantage,” Bogusz told the Chicago Tribune. He said was also singled out for not being married or having children. Bogusz concluded, “If I told you we need more Millennials [in elected offices], I think that’s just as bad as saying Millennials don’t deserve a seat at the table. It’s less about how old you are and more about what you do.”
Derek Dobosz’s Opposition Said He Didn’t Have Enough Experience
21-year-old Derek Dobosz was a correctional officer for the sheriff’s department before he decided to run for City Council of Chicopee, Massachusetts. The man running against him, 51-year-old Timothy McLellan, implied that Dobosz was too young and didn’t have enough experience to hold the city council seat. “I’m a taxpayer, I’m a homeowner and I have two kids in the public schools,” McLellan said.
Dobosz’s platform included improving the way police services were utilized, reconsidering the city’s waste management model, and making sure Chicopee residents had better access to high-speed internet. “I’m just promising to respond to my constituents, their issues are my issues and I will prioritize the little issues,” he said. In November 2017, he won the seat.