18-year-old college student elected mayor of Arkansas city

Category: Top Stories


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. elect / ɪˈlɛkt / (v.) – to choose someone for a position by voting

    She was elected as the governor.

  2. runoff / ˈrʌnˌɔf / (n.) – a final contest where a winner is decided when the previous competition did not have a clear winner

    The runners are tied in the race, so they will compete again in a runoff.

  3. unofficial / ˌʌn əˈfɪʃ əl / (adj.) – not formally done or confirmed by people in authority

    According to the unofficial vote count, he is winning the presidential race.

  4. campaign / kæmˈpeɪn / (v.) – to lead or participate in a set of activities done to achieve a specific result

    The senatorial candidate campaigned on improving healthcare.

  5. fresh out of / frɛʃ aʊt ʌv / (idiom) – having recently left or come out of a place such as a school

    Our newest team member is fresh out of college.


Read the text below.

An 18-year-old college student has been elected to serve as mayor of a small east Arkansas city, becoming one of the youngest people to serve as a city’s top leader in the U.S.

Jaylen Smith, who is Black, was elected mayor of Earle in a runoff election on December 6, winning 235 votes to Nemi Matthews’ 183, according to complete but unofficial results.

He’s among the youngest mayors elected in the United States and would be the youngest member of the African American Mayors Association. Phyllis Dickerson, chief executive officer of the association, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the association’s current youngest member is Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, who is 35.

Smith is among a handful of people elected mayor before turning 20, including Michael Sessions, who was elected mayor of Hillsdale, Michigan, in 2005 when he was 18; and John Tyler Hammons, who was elected mayor of Muskogee, Oklahoma, in 2008 when he was 19.

Smith, who graduated from Earle High School in May 2022, campaigned on improving public safety and bringing new businesses, including a grocery store, to the city of about 1,800 people 25 miles (40 kilometers) northwest of Memphis, Tennessee. He is a student at Arkansas State University Mid-South in West Memphis, Arkansas.

“People looking at me, well I’m too young, he has no experience, he’s fresh out of high school,” Smith told Little Rock TV station KATV. “But I used to always tell people you have to start somewhere in life.”

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of entering public service at a young age? Discuss.
  • When you’re choosing a public official, do you consider the candidates’ age? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Would you ever consider running for public office? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • If you were to run for office, what would you campaign on? What would you do first once you’re elected? Discuss.