Arkansas town elects youngest Black mayor in US

Voters in the small town of Earle, Ark., elected the country’s youngest Black mayor in a runoff election on Tuesday night. 

Jaylen Smith, 18, is a recent graduate of Earle High School. But come January, he will be mayor of the city of Earle, where about 2,000 people live. 

According to election results, Smith managed to receive 218 votes while his opponent, Nemi Matthews Sr., won 139 votes.

Smith announced his win in a Facebook post on Tuesday. 

“Citizens of Earle, Arkansas, it’s official!! I am your newly elected Mayor of Earle, Arkansas,” Smith posted. “‘It’s Time to Build a Better Chapter of Earle, Arkansas.’ I would like to thank all my supporters for stepping up getting people to the polls. I am truly grateful for you all.”

WKRC reported that Smith’s focus as mayor will be on improving public safety and transportation, tearing down abandoned houses and bringing a grocery store to the city.

Matthews, who served as a street superintendent for 30 years, told WKRC that he and the 18-year-old are friends and that their families have known each other for years.

“No animosity, anything, for as me and Jaylen are concerned,” Matthews said. “Everything has been cordial. If I can help him do anything, I’ll do it, and likewise with him.”

According to Smith’s Facebook, he’s held various leadership positions throughout middle and high school, including president of his school’s student government association. 

“I feel my purpose from God is to advocate for the ones that are scared and afraid to advocate for themselves,” Smith says. “The ultimate goal is to provide help, love, and care. With that being said, I am a youth leader in my community. With this position, I try to pull young adults into my program/organization and talk them into being leaders of their communities. The reason I do what I do is because I grew up loving, helping, and caring for people that find it difficult to care for themselves. I always tell people, “I believe in you.” This is meaningful to me because not many have heard this. I want everyone to know that you can do any thorn you put your mind to.”

Smith also shares that he is a special education student; at an early age, he said, he was diagnosed with a learning disability. 

“This disability does not take away from what I am able to do,” said Smith. “In fact, it motivates me more to achieve greatness. To add, I was embarrassed of taking special education courses, but I had to realize that I can not help who I am.” 

Smith said his learning disability affects his ability to achieve high scores on standardized tests, and therefore keeps him from attending prestigious colleges and universities. But, he said, he has a goal to help those around the nation. 

“I went to meet with my state representative and my state senator. I have also had the opportunity to sit down and meet with the Governor of the State of Arkansas regarding the State Educational System, Student Voice, state economy, and guidance on what I do to be a mayor and a great political asset,” Smith added. 

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