Man Who Grew Up Poor Becomes One of America’s Youngest Mayors at 28

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Walking into Mayor Svante Myrick‘s office in Ithaca, New York, will make you realize that the youth really does things differently. And you would be right, because at 28, the mayor is still essentially a part of the young generation.

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His office mounted an LED display with text messages sent directly to him, uncensored and posted by anyone to see. While many of these messages contain suggestions like paving problems and bike systems, there are also the occasional lighthearted ones that say, “Stop staring at this sign and get back to work!”

The board, which is an installation by local artist Blake Fall-Conroy, is a way for the mayor to be open about communications. This is perfect considering that Myrick is from a generation of smartphones, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat.

Myrick said about the installation, “It’s a new public square. Some people feel very comfortable calling my office or writing a letter. Other people use Twitter and Facebook. It means more people have my ear. And the more constituents you hear from, the better job you can do.”

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The young mayor was elected in 2011, making him the youngest in the city’s history and a popular one at that. Upon being elected in 2011, one of his first decisions was to stop driving to get to work. After selling his car, he put benches and planters on his prime parking space instead, earning him the title as “the parking space guy,” which he is still referred to today.

It was Myrick’s hope that his actions would signal better changes in the way streets and sidewalks are treated in the city, as well as making Ithaca a more walkable place to live.

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This vision, fortunately, is something that he shares with his generation as most prefer urban neighborhoods where they can walk or take public transportation. Surveyed, these citizens wanted a home where they can feel like they’re part of a community, close to coffee shops, offices, and restaurants.

His youth is what made him relatable to the younger generation, but there is also something big that sets him apart from them: unlike many privileged kids in the university town, Myrick spent a lot of his childhood in poverty.

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With Cornell’s mascot, the Big Red Bear. Photo via Facebook, used with permission.

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