Meet The Mayor Who Grew Up Homeless — And He’s Only 28

In the town of Ithaca, New York, there is an LED display in their mayor’s office. It flashes text messages their mayor receives, some from his constituents. They are not censored and are open to the public eye.

Meet Svante Myrick. He’s not even in his 30s and yet he’s the mayor of Ithaca. And his leadership and story is an example that you are never too young to accomplish anything.

In 2011 he was elected mayor at the age of 24 and the now 28-year-old is not only the youngest mayor the town has elected, but he is also their first African American mayor.

His decisions as a mayor aren’t traditional and are often meant to bring him closer to the people. In 2012 an article in the Huffington Post was written about him after a photo of his parking space went viral. The story behind the viral photo is that Myrick, after selling his car, put benches and planters in his mayoral parking spot and changed the sign to read “Reserved for Mayor and Friends.”

The circumstances of his childhood led him to becoming the leader he is today. Growing up in Earlville, New York with three brothers and a single mom who worked several jobs gave him the experiences to learn from. For instance, early in his life he was involved in decision-making.

“She brought us right into the household decision-making,” Myrick told Upworthy. “This is what we have and what we want. We could decide, ‘This is the third notice from the gas company so we should pay that over the phone bill because they only sent one.'”

His families reliance on food stamps and other social programs sparked his interest and passion for government work.

In school he performed well and got accepted to Cornell in 2005. While studying he worked several jobs to help pay for college. One of those jobs was working as an assistant to a council member on Ithaca’s city council. Eventually he ran for that council’s seat and he won in 2008, during his junior year in college.

He ran for mayor in 2011, but such journey was not an easy one. “I had people tell me at the door they weren’t voting for me because I was too young,” he told Upworthy.

During that term he closed a $3 million budget deficit, worked to rebuild the downtown shopping area called “the Commons”, and fought to rezone the city in order to make it more walkable.

He won his second this past fall with 89% of the vote.

“I’m excited to do this for four more years,” he said. “You become qualified to run for state offices at 30. I still have a couple of years to think about it.”