Spelman College student Mary-Pat Hector to run for Georgia city council
The 19-year-old has been involved in political and empowerment movements for years
We’ve all Diddy-bopped in the mirror to Michael Jackson’s classic “Man in the Mirror,” ending our lip-synch routine with the whisper “make that change,” dramatically mimicking the great himself. But how many of us have dropped the act and made that change?
Mary-Pat Hector, a 19-year old sophomore at Spelman College, wasn’t born when the Man in the Mirror released his hit single. But “children should be seen and not heard” was a saying that Hector, of Lithonia, Georgia, could never quite get her head around. She was 11 when she began her commitment to change. Now the teen has launched her campaign for a city council seat in Stonecrest, a newly incorporated city in DeKalb County, making her the youngest candidate on a city council ballot in Georgia state history. Less than 6 months old, Stonecrest (population: 50,000) is one of eight new cities incorporated in the Atlanta area in the past decade, three of which have been created since 2008.
Hector’s candidacy was not met with unanimous support. On Jan. 23, George Turner Jr., one of Hector’s opponents in the race, wrote a letter challenging her eligibility to run. The letter, addressed to Voter Registration and Elections’ director H. Maxine Daniels, questioned Hector’s eligibility based on her age.
The letter read in part, “My research revealed that in order to hold office of commissioner or city council, one must be 21 years of age, unless the charter specifically makes an exception. There is no such exception mentioned in the charter for the city of Stonecrest. Therefore, any candidate who has not attained age of 21 is not qualified to serve on City Council in the city of Stonecrest.”
Following the letter, Hector received support from several public officials, including Atlanta city councilman Kwanza Hall and Clarkston mayor Edward Terry. The Board of Registration and Elections held a hearing, and members ultimately made an exception that Hector’s age would not keep her off the ballot.
“Justice was served, and the law prevailed,” Hector said in a statement on AJC.com. “The board’s decision is a testament to the inclusion of the next generation’s participation in the democratic process. I look forward to continuing my campaign and serving as the first council member for the fourth district of the city of Stonecrest.”
Although Hector is young, she’s not new to politics. At age 15, Hector founded Youth in Action USA, which is one of the nation’s fastest-growing nonprofit organizations. It aims to mobilize teenagers and college-age citizens to create social change and solve problems in their communities. She continued her work in public service and became the national youth director for the National Action Network (NAN). Founded by Al Sharpton, NAN is an organization that promotes a modern civil rights agenda that fights for equality for all people regardless of race or gender.
Her resume also boasts her positions as youth leader for Millennials for Hillary Victory Council, youth board member for Cities United, southeast regional organizer for Generation Progress, and founder of Think Twice Campaign.
Hector was recognized and awarded for her community service efforts by then-President Barack Obama. During her first year at Spelman, Hector led an effort to address the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. She and about 20 Atlanta-area college students went door to door delivering more than 12,000 bottles of water to residents.
The city council election will be held March 21.