November 8, 2011

18 Year Old Mayor Michael Sessions

I had a hard time choosing the story I wanted to tell this week because we have both Election Day and Veterans Day.  Election day won out after I heard the story of Michael Sessions.
Michael Sessions registered to vote the day after he turned 18.  He had always been interested in his local government, to the point that he used to watch City Council meetings that were televised on TV.  But that wasn't enough.  Seeing the lack of concern most citizens had for government, he wanted to get involved so he could help them want to be more involved.  Over the years, he saw that most of the local 'races' were unopposed, meaning that no one was challenging the incumbents (people already holding those positions) for their jobs in government.  

He wanted to run for mayor of the small town in which he grew up.  But because registering to run occurred several months prior, when he was too young to run, his name wasn't on the ballot.  That didn't stop Michael.  He ran a 'write in' campaign using $700 left over from his summer job, maybe just mowing lawns.  In his campaign, he promised that he would "devote after-school hours to the job [while attending nearby Hillsdale High School during the day] and use his bedroom as his office."  

He had to work hard to be elected.  He knocked on so many doors that he developed Bronchitis, which landed him in the hospital.  But he only had a few months to make his case to the voting public.  He impressed the local fire department enough that they endorsed him.  The fire department first called Hillsdale High School to check on his grades; he had a 3.25 GPA.  

On Election day, he won by two votes.  Several votes were disqualified, but he still had 670 compared to the incumbent 668.  He thinks the two deciding votes were his parents.  One vote that wasn't disqualified read, 'The 18 year old running for mayor.'  Remember that everyone had to write his name 'Michael Sessions' into the ballot to vote for him, not just check a box.  He really had to work hard so people would remember his name (or at least remember he was the 18 year old running.)  

He took the oath of office in November 2005, becoming one of the youngest mayors in United States history.  He had turned 18 in September of that year.  He graduated from Hillsdale High School in 2006 and went on to Hillsdale College, all while he served as mayor.  He earned a stipend of $250 a month for his service and the budget he controlled for the city amounted to about $20 million.  He performed at least ten marriages while serving as Mayor of Hillsdale, Michigan.  After elected, he told people what he was planning on doing, "From 7:50 am to 2:30 pm I'm a student; from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm, I'm going to be out fulfilling this job as mayor.  If it's not talking with people, it's meeting with the city manager or the director of public safety or the fire chief or the road workers.  I'm going to make sure people see that I'm visible and I care about this town."

This motivated young man did something amazing, and made a difference in the world.  He had determination and courage, just what it took to convince the people of Hillsdale that he'd make the right mayor for their town.  People in his town think he's doing a good job.  One woman, age 70, said, "He's more grown up than most mayors we've had in this town in the past. I voted for him and I would again.  He can eat dinner at my table any time."  He's delivered on his promises too, adding more firemen and working to make City Hall friendlier.  People like him and the work he has done.

Get out and VOTE!  Every vote matters.  What if two people who would have voted for him had stayed home that day?

 To learn more about Michael Sessions, read about him in Wikipedia, and see pg. 135 of How To Raise an American by Myrna Blyth.
Olbermann, Keith, MSNBC, "18 year old mayor taking his new job seriously" Nov 11, 2005, found at
Wilkins, Korie;  Free Press, "Young mayor emerges wiser - Hillsdale's Michael Sessions, 20, beats cancer, recall effort" Oct 15, 2007 found at

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