The city of Memphis, Tennessee has elected a new mayor.
After a hectic evening of voting in Memphis, Paul Young claims victory as the city’s next Mayor of Memphis.
Young ran against 16 other candidates in Memphis’ first mayoral election since 1971 which did not feature an incumbent running for re-election.
“I believe in our city. I believe in Memphis. I believe in every one of you,” Young said during his victory speech Thursday night. “Whether you’re in this room or watching on TV. I believe that we can be better. In fact, I know that we’re going to be better.”
He continued, “We only wrote one speech because we believe we are going to be victorious., and what people will hear from me is a unifying message. The same message we have communicated throughout this campaign that Memphis is stronger together. All parts of our city no matter what your background is, orientation, partisanship, we are all team Memphis.”
Young was also congratulated by current Memphis mayor Jim Strickland, who’s held the mayor’s office since 2016.
Congratulations Paul Young! Your many years of public service will benefit you at city hall,” Strickland said. “I look forward to working with you and your team as you prepare to become mayor on January 1.”
Paul Young is no stranger to Memphis. He is currently the president and CEO of the Downtown Memphis Commission and before serving in that role he was director of the City of Memphis Division of Housing and Community Development and administrator of the Memphis and Shelby County Division of Planning and Development.
Memphis’ Mayoral race also consisted of Van Turner — the former commissioner of Shelby County and a civil rights attorney — who currently leads the Memphis chapter of the NAACP. Turner served as the commissioner from 2014 to 2022.
“I’m running for mayor because I want the same thing that I have and want for my family that I want for your family,” Turner told Action News 5 in August. “I have a proven track record of getting the tough jobs done.”
Throughout his campaign, the politician had been an outspoken voice in the fight to crack down on crime and to create safer communities in Memphis.
He shared a similar ethos to former Memphis Mayor Dr. Willie Wilbert Herenton. In February, the Democrat announced that he would be running for Mayor again. The 83-year-old was elected Mayor in 1991 and served five consecutive terms under the role.
When asked why he joined the heated race, Herenton – who was also interviewed by Action News 5 in August — said he saw “an urgent need for leadership” after the death of Tyre Nichols, the young motorist who was fatally beaten by a group of Memphis officers.
“When I looked at these candidates, I did not see a single candidate for mayor that I felt as a citizen — and as a former Mayor — that they could take this city out of its state of crisis and give it the leadership it needs.”
Democrat Michelle McKissack tried to make history, becoming the first female Mayor of Memphis.
McKissack — a lifelong Memphian and a member of the Memphis-Shelby County school board district — hoped to bring the city of Memphis together to address some of the longstanding issues negatively impacting the city.
“The City of Memphis, the county government. You have the public sector and the private sector. Everyone’s kind of working in silos and not really having that communication to work together so that we can pull on the sources and be most impactful,” McKissack told ABC 24 in July.
She hoped to help small businesses and entrepreneurs in Memphis thrive.
“We need to invest more in entrepreneurs, into small businesses because they are the driving engines in the communities,” the politician added. “To give them some of those same sorts of tax breaks that the large corporate entities are getting to help our downtown flourish and other companies.”
Throughout history, the contributions and achievements of African-American officials in public service cannot be overstated. Over the last decade, there has been a rise in Black Mayors across the nation – all of whom have been dedicated to creating social and political change in their respective cities. These remarkable leaders have not only shattered glass ceilings but have also dedicated their lives to the betterment of their communities.
New Memphis mayor Paul Young will have his hands full with a city that has struggled with crime and violence. Hopefully with the help of other candidates, young can achieve many of the dreams and aspirations each candidate brought to the table.
To celebrate Young’s victory, here are 10 Black Mayors who have made historic strides and a lasting impact in their community.
1. Sylvester Turner
Sylvester Turner was elected in 2015 and re-elected by an overwhelming majority in 2019. As the city’s 62nd mayor, he has demonstrated strong leadership through his commitment to disaster recovery, public safety and improving the quality of life for Houston’s diverse residents.
Mayor Turner’s career is a testament to his dedication to public service. In his final year as Houston’s leader, Turner vowed to strive for “execution and implementation” with his plans to improve the city.
2. Karen Bass
Elected in 2020, Karen Bass is the 43rd Mayor of Los Angeles and the first woman and second African American to be elected as the city’s chief executive.
Housing and community safety have been a top priority for the Mayor since she took office. Before landing her historic role, Bass was a representative of the Los Angeles State Assembly where she served as Speaker. She became the first American American woman to ever lead a state legislative body in the U.S.
3. Eric Adams
Mayor Adams became the Mayor of New York City in 2022. Before taking the coveted seat, the powerful politician served as an NYPD officer and a State Senator. He was also the Brooklyn Borough President.
4. Ras Baraka
Ras Baraka became the Mayor of Newark in July 2014. His current term will end in June 2026.
Baraka was a dedicated member of the Newark City Council before landing his role as Newark’s longtime Mayor. He represented the South Ward from 2010 to 2014. Between 2002 and 2005, Baraka served as Deputy Mayor of Newark under former Mayor Sharp James.
5. Jaylen Smith
Jaylen Smith made history in 2022 when he became the youngest politician to win a Mayoral race. Smith was 18 when he was elected to become the Mayor of Earle, Arkansas. The shining political star beat his opponent Nemi Matthews Sr. with a vote of 218 to 139.
6. Andre Dickens
Andre Dickens — a native of Atlanta — became the Mayor of his hometown in 2022. The passionate politician has been focused on bringing equity and public safety to the Big Peach.
7. Brandon Scott
Democrat Brandon Scott was elected Mayor of Baltimore in 202o. Scott had strong political ties to the city before taking on the big role. He served on the Baltimore City Council as president from 2019 to 2020. He was also a representative of District 2 on the city council from 2011 to 2019.
8. Muriel Bowser
Muriel Bowser was elected to serve as the Mayor of Washington D.C. in 2015. She was re-elected in 2022 after winning the general election. Before becoming Mayor, Bowser served as a representative of Ward 4 on the Washington D.C. council from 2007 to 2015.
9. Frank Scott Jr.
Frank Scott Jr. has been the Mayor of Little Rock since 2019. The longtime public servant was a member of the Little Rock Port Authority board of directors from 2011 to 2017 and on the Arkansas State Highway Commission from 2013 to 2017.
10. Brandon Johnson
Brandon Johnson is the Mayor of Chicago. He assumed office on May 15, 2023. With a background in youth development programming, education and management, Johnson brings a wealth of experience to his new role.
Before taking office, Johnson was a teacher with the Chicago Public School system and was also a member of the Chicago Teacher’s Union.
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