Rutgers SPAA Hosts Conversation with History-Making, 18-year-old Mayor, Jaylen Smith
This semester, Rutgers SPAA hosted a conversation with Jaylen Smith, the history-making, 18-year-old mayor of Earle, Arkansas, to give SPAA students a better understanding of leadership and how to manage complex organizations including government agencies, and most importantly, so students could see someone like themselves – an 18-year-old Black male – leading change through public service.
Mayor Smith, recognized as the youngest African-American mayor in the history of the United States government, talked about why he wanted to pursue a career in public service and the need to make a change in Earle. The event was organized and moderated by Dr. Michael Dillard, assistant teaching professor and the director of the BA Program in Public and Nonprofit Administration at Rutgers SPAA. Sharon Stroye, SPAA's director of public engagement, served as the second moderator. LaMonica McIver, the council president of the City of Newark, provided welcoming remarks.
Dr. Michael Dillard: Our SPAA students were able to witness leadership in action
“Students must be exposed to real-world experiences to guide their decision-making as future public and nonprofit administrators. This virtual session was complementary to the typical classroom instruction taught in my undergraduate Leadership for Service Professions course. Students had the opportunity to be exposed to a diverse set of skills and knowledge presented from the youngest mayor in the United States. Our SPAA students were able to witness leadership in action and to understand what it takes to manage a city. This event was also attended by Newark Public Schools district students, high school guidance counselors, the council president of the City of Newark, and City of Newark employees. My goal as the BA director is to inspire our students to make a personal commitment to public service."
Jenine Draughon, MPA student: It was exhilarating to watch him speak about his future intentions
"I am in my next to last semester in the MPA program here at Rutgers University–Newark and it was an honor to attend the discussion with the country’s youngest mayor, Jaylen Smith of Earle, Arkansas. He gave off such pure, intentional, and inspiring energy as a public administrator and change agent for his community. It was exhilarating to watch him speak about his future intentions for the safety and growth of his constituency. His developing leadership style and agenda for engaging the community are innovative and vigorous. Running on a platform of having 24-hour police access, a grocery store in town, and growing the dwindling population of just around 1,800 over his next two terms, he speaks with confidence and a fire to help his city. He is facing dilapidated and non-existent suitable housing, those who have resided in this community for decades and may not be so welcoming of changing their habits, and naysayers of a neophyte in this political ring, but as he says politicians are here to help their people and I believe in this he will succeed. As an inspiring administrator and leader in student and community engagement, Mayor Smith was truly a breath of fresh air and someone I will be keeping an eye out for in future political arenas."
Odalys Rodriguez, MPA student: He inspired me to take action and reach my own goals
"I am in my third year in the accelerated MPA program at SPAA, majoring in Public and Nonprofit Administration. It was an honor to have the opportunity to attend the discussion with the country’s youngest mayor, Jaylen Smith of Earle, Arkansas. It was amazing to see how someone so young has so many aspirations and a commitment to his community. He has so many goals and things he wants to achieve to better his community. He inspired me to take action and reach my own goals, since I am interested in a leadership position in the near future. It was encouraging and gratifying to see how the SPAA family and the council president for the City of Newark welcomed him with open arms and offered him full support. I hope he continues his education and professional development. I hope he finds a great mentor to guide him through this journey, which is not going to be easy, but I am confident that he will be able to succeed. I am looking forward to seeing all the positive outcomes he will achieve for his community. I wish him the best and hope he reaches every goal in his political career."
Ruby Rodriguez, BA student: I’m looking forward to witnessing him pave the way for our youth
"I’m a junior at SPAA. One of my personal goals is to find my purpose, and I came to SPAA to do just that. Listening to Mayor Smith describe his journey and how he discovered his purpose was inspiring. I’m looking forward to witnessing him pave the way for our youth to make changes to not only our country but the world. One of the most memorable quotes from Mayor Smith was “we can do anything we want as long as we believe in it.” I’ve heard those words my entire life, but when a successful 18-year-old says them, it has a different meaning. Mayor’s Smith servant leadership style puts his community first and there’s so much we can learn from his experience. As leaders in public service, it’s very important to listen to the people we serve and put bureaucracy aside. Many thanks to the organizers for putting this together and I look forward to participating in future discussions."
LaMonica McIver, Council President, City of Newark: His wisdom and determination were incredibly encouraging
"It was a true pleasure to chat with Mayor Jaylen Smith, the youngest African-American mayor in the U.S. His wisdom and determination were incredibly encouraging and should be for all those interested in public office and public work. You are truly never too young to get involved in your community and make a difference. I would encourage those who want to see a difference in the community to start by getting involved, whether it's at Rutgers or your local council office. There is so much work to be done to make the world a better place and it starts with you (us)."