The next mayor of a small Oregon town is only 18 years old. Last week, Ben Simons was elected mayor of Yoncalla, a Douglas County town with just over 1,000 residents.
He only received 148 votes. Yet that was plenty for Simons to beat out his two opponents, gaining 41.2 percent of the vote.
"For the people that really know me in town, my age wasn't really anything, because they know I have the skills and qualifications to hold this office," Simons tells WW. "I don't like my age to be my qualifying or disqualifying factor."
"I didn't want this to be 'Elect an 18-year-old mayor,' I wanted it to be 'Elect the best, most qualified candidate,'" Simons says.
KEZI, a television station in Roseburg, first reported on his win.
Simons has a little political experience. He currently serves as interim city councilor in Yoncalla. The city is 150 miles from Portland in northern Douglas County, one of Oregon's more conservative counties.
Simons, a Republican, says his first priority as mayor will be reexamining the city's budget. "As mayor, I'd really like to make sure we're spending the money the best we can. We've got pretty limited resources down here," Simons says. "A lot of people feel like they pay taxes here and don't see the value of what they're paying."
Simons graduated from Yoncalla High School in June and now attends Umpqua Community College. He is also a volunteer firefighter with North Douglas County Fire and EMS. He plans to transfer to the University of Oregon and study business after his two-year term as mayor.