Brandon Paulin is the top official in the town of Indian Head, Maryland even though he is only 19 years old.
Mr. Paulin started the job this month. He says his first goal is to bring business back to the town. The area is about two and a half kilometers wide and sits between two rivers. About 4,000 people live there. It includes small businesses, old homes on tree-lined streets, and new townhouses along the highway. It is about an hour’s drive away from the U.S. capital of Washington, DC.
But on the way into the capital, the highway passes the remains of closed businesses. The shops failed largely because of competition from shopping centers in larger cities. Mr. Paulin says when some people drive into Indian Head and see the empty buildings, they just turn around and leave.
He hopes to return the town to what it used to be — a friendly, successful place with natural beauty where people want to live and visit.
“Many, many years ago, Indian Head was a booming town, and that’s what I want to get back," he said. “I want to entice businesses as much as I can, using business incentives.”
Right now, the people who own the old, empty buildings are permitted to use their properties to reduce their taxes. Mr. Paulin wants to reverse the situation. He plans to charge owners a fee for empty buildings, and to increase the cost every year. That way, he says, owners will hurry to establish a new business.
Bryan Lyles lives in Indian Point and does not have a job. He hopes new businesses will come soon after meeting Mr. Paulin. Mr. Lyles, who is 26, says, “I think it’s awesome to have a young mayor.”
The owner of a local health food store where Mr. Paulin buys fruit drinks is also happy about the young mayor. Kelly Murphy says, “His age doesn’t bother me. I know he’s excited, and I feel when people get around him, we feel excited again. We’ve lost that for many years in this town.”
Mr. Paulin began participating in city politics when he was 10 years old. At that time, he urged town officials to put in signs urging drivers to be aware of pedestrians – people crossing the street on foot. Mr. Paulin succeeded. Since then, he says, he has been involved in the town government.
As mayor, Mr. Paulin earns only $6,000 a year. In comparison, most U.S. legislators make an average salary of about $40,000 a year.
Mr. Paulin lives at home and takes college classes online. His mother, Wendy Paulin, says her son accepts challenges and works on problems until he has a solution.
Voters in small towns across the U.S. have elected several other 18- and 19-year-old leaders.
But people in Dorset, Minnesota set the record for a town’s youngest mayor. Only about 25 people live in Dorset. Each year, they put all the residents’ names in a hat and blindly select someone. In 2012, they chose Bobby Tufts to be their top official. Bobby was three-years-old.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Deborah Block reported this story. Kelly Jean Kelly wrote it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
booming – adj. growing or expanding very quickly
entice – v. attract someone especially by offering or showing something appealing or interesting
incentive – n. something that encourages a person to do something or to work harder
pedestrian – n. a person who is walking in a city or along a road