18-Year-Old Becomes Youngest Black Mayor In United States In Arkansas City

18-Year-Old Becomes Youngest Black Mayor In United States In Arkansas City


Jaylen Smith, 18, became the youngest Black mayor in U.S. history when he was elected to lead Earle, Arkansas on Tuesday, Dec. 6. (Photo: Jaylen Smith Facebook)

While most 18-year-olds are busy pursuing college or entering the workforce, Jaylen Smith is preparing to lead a city – while still attending college. 

On Tuesday, Dec. 6, Smith made history by becoming the youngest Black mayor in the history of the United States. It’s a moment not lost on him.

“It feels awesome. Generations and generations of people will read about this historical moment,” Smith told NBC BLK.

Smith was elected mayor of Earle, Arkansas, defeating his opponent Nemi Matthews Sr. in a runoff. In a small town of nearly 2,000 people, Smith garnered 285 votes, compared to Matthews’ 183, local media reported.

The Arkansas State University Mid-South college freshman announced the win in a Facebook post and thanked all who voted for him. The post had been shared over 2,000 times at the time of publication.

“Citizens of Earle, Arkansas, it’s official!! I am your newly elected Mayor of Earle, Arkansas… ‘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,” Smith wrote.


Smith explained to The Washington Post why he decided to run when he was only 18. “You have to start somewhere — you really do,” Smith said. “I didn’t want to be 30 or 40 and become a mayor when I could be one right now.”

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According to Smith, he had to overcome insecurities after being diagnosed with a learning disability that impeded his ability to do well on standardized tests. He said he was once embarrassed he had to take special education classes.

Those days are behind him.

“This disability does not take away from what I am able to do,” told The Hill. “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.” 

Matthews is a police lieutenant with over 40 years of experience working for the City of Earle that served as street superintendent for 30 years, WKRC reported. He said he had no hard feelings towards Smith before the race and would support him if he could.

“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.”


Matthews also said he and Smith’s families had been friends for years, which is likely why Smith said he went and talked to Matthews when he decided to run for the seat.

As mayor, Smith plans to prioritize bringing a grocery store to his city, improving public safety and revitalizing his community by restoring or removing abandoned buildings.

“We had one a long time ago, but it closed,” Smith said, noting what motivated his desire for the grocery store. “Our seniors don’t have transportation to get to and from West Memphis to get food. So it would be better to have a grocery store here in town.” 

Though Smith said he was confident he could win the race, he is still very appreciative to be the victor. “I felt so grateful! I had the craziest facial reaction when I won! It was such a blessing,” Smith told NBC News.

“My mom can’t stop crying,” he said in a separate interview, noting the young people in his city propelled him to victory. “They wanted to see change,” Smith said. “I basically won off of them.”

Full of faith, Smith said it was his “purpose from God … to advocate for the ones that are scared and afraid to advocate for themselves.” He added, “the ultimate goal is to provide help, love, and care.”

Smith also seemingly predicted his win days before the runoff and encouraged others not to let trials make them give up on their dreams.

“I’m on the verge of something Big! Something mind-blowing and I can sense it in the Spirit!” Smith wrote

He added, “i am convinced I am not the only one. You too are at the eve of one of the greatest seasons of your life. Everything you’ve gone through is about to make sense. Stay focused. Remain still in His presence completely content until His will is made known to you. Trust me! The attacks upon you are confirmation that the enemy is nervous. You are closer than you have ever been!”

PHOTO: Jaylen Smith, 18, became the youngest Black mayor in U.S. history when he was elected to lead Earle, Arkansas on Tuesday, Dec. 6. (Photo: Jaylen Smith Facebook)