Robbins, Illinois, has a new mayor, and he’s making statewide history.
Darren Bryant, 29, was sworn in as the mayor of Robbins, located just outside Chicago, on May 11, making him not only the youngest African American mayor to hold office in the Cook County village, but the entire state of Illinois.
“It’s a surreal moment,” Bryant told “Good Morning America.” “This is the people’s victory more so than mine and I think ‘humbling’ is the best word to describe how I feel right now.”
Known for being one of the oldest incorporated African American communities in the country and the childhood homes to celebrities such as Dwyane Wade and Keke Palmer, Robbins is rich in history and a popular village among Black residents.
With parents on local school and trustee boards, Bryant grew up around elected officials and has actively been involved in public service since a young age.
“I got exposed to government at an early age and understood what it meant to serve and dedicate my personal time to others,” he said.
After serving as student body president before graduating from Kentucky State University in 2014, he went on to become Park District commissioner at 23, then a village trustee at 25, before taking the seat as mayor.
Robbins has a 42% poverty rate, 51.8% rate of homeownership and only 12% of residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Bryant is ready to enact change.
“I’d like to see an increase in home ownership, residential development, economically viable businesses and a village filled with residents living in a town where their quality of life has improved,” Bryant said during a recent interview with Color Coded Voices, a platform that highlights positive news and outstanding stories from communities of color.
Bryant also hopes to have a major impact on the next generation of leaders. When he’s not fulfilling his duties as mayor, he can be found at his alma mater, Eisenhower High School, serving as one of the few Black male educators in the school district.
“Just having a mayor inside of a school is important,” Bryant said. “I even had a student email me the other day saying how he’s planning to become the future youngest mayor of Robbins. So I set the bar, and now this student is already trying to beat it.”
Keyland Sanders, 16, told “GMA” that Bryant has been a constant source of support since his father died and has inspired him to one day work in politics.
“Ever since our initial conversation about my dad’s passing, Mayor Bryant has almost become like family here at school,” Sanders said. “He motivates me, pushes me and is always there without me asking. Now, I’m really interested in one day working in Congress and deciding what laws should or shouldn’t be passed.”
Bryant said he plans to actively work toward building a better town to improve the lives of his residents.
“We can make this world a better place,” he said.
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