MUSKOGEE — While his classmates were recounting their spring break trips, tuning up their pickups or making plans for the weekend, John Tyler Hammons was campaigning to be mayor of his hometown. So far, that campaign has been a success. Hammons, a freshman at the University of Oklahoma, was the top vote getter in the mayor's race Tuesday. He faces May 13 runoff against a 70-year-old veteran politician who has been working in the community longer than Hammons has been alive. When Hammons was one of six people vying for the mayor's spot in Muskogee, he was the novelty candidate. Now that he was the top vote-getter, the reality of a 19-year-old leading one of Oklahoma's larger cities could come true. But he's not the first teenager to hold a city's highest office. In 1994, an 18-year-old was elected to Tishomingo's city council and later named mayor. In 2005, a Michigan high school senior unseated an incumbent as a write-in candidate.Comments
It happened in TishomingoIn 1994, Dustin Rowe was elected to the Tishomingo City Council 11 days after his 18th birthday. Rowe was later named mayor as a high school senior and still may hold the distinction of being Oklahoma's youngest mayor. No one really keeps track for sure. But in Oklahoma, people must be 18 to hold public office. "Even to this day, I'm still referred to as the young mayor,” said Rowe, 32, who is now an attorney in Tishomingo and a special judge for the Chickasaw Nation. "I never thought it would stick with me to this day.” More recently, an 18-year-old high school senior unseated an incumbent mayor as a write-in candidate in Hillsdale, Mich., a community of about 8,200. Michael Sessions, 20, now a college junior, is in his third year as mayor. His advice: "Keep on knocking on doors. I won by two votes. People were fed up with what was going on in the city, and they voted me in. "Since I've been in office we've put a lot of emphasis on economic development and it seems to be working.” Neophyte mayors bring energy, optimism and idealism to the office, said Rowe. "There is a benefit to being young and a desire to do the right thing,” Rowe said. "However, there's a lot to be said about the wisdom life brings.”
Results were surprisingHammons will face Hershel McBride in the May 13 election. If he can convince voters in Muskogee, an eastern Oklahoma city with a population of about 40,000, he may have a shot at being one of the youngest mayors in the state. For Hammons, even Tuesday night's election was a victory — he got more votes than he thought he would. Hammons received 1,849 votes, or 42.4 percent, to McBride's 1,697 votes, or 38.9 percent. Hammons and McBride were among a field of six candidates. "It's amazing,” said Hammons, who plans to transfer to Northeastern Oklahoma State University if elected. "It's the most humbling experience of my life. "We weren't sure how it was going to go,” Hammons said. "When the results came in and we were in second, we felt good. That's all we wanted ... "I went down to the election board, and they said, ‘Mr. Hammons, you just won.' I just froze. It was euphoric. I'm not the mayor, but I beat him.” McBride served as Muskogee mayor from 2000 to 2006 and has owned grocery and convenience stores for nearly 50 years. "I was surprised. I knew there would be a runoff, but I thought more than likely it might be between me and somebody else,” McBride said Wednesday. "He's a nice young man, but when it comes down to it, it will be between one who has experience and one who doesn't.”
Runoff setThe office of Muskogee mayor will be decided in a May 13 runoff election. The candidates are John Tyler Hammons, 19; and former Muskogee Mayor Hershel McBride, 70.
Other voteTwo city council seats will also be decided in runoffs that day. Candidates for Ward 2 are Frank C. Borovetz Jr. and Charles Shawn Raper. The Ward 4 runoff foes are Jackie DeWayne Luckey and Barry Alexander Rader III.