The joke among the residents of Indian Head, Maryland, is that Brandon Paulin never really left town hall.
Last spring, at just 19, he was elected mayor of the town of 4,000—making him the youngest person ever to hold that office in Maryland’s history. Still Brandon first got involved in local government at age 11. “Back then, Indian Head had no signs at crosswalks telling drivers to stop for pedestrians,” he recalls. “So I started going to town meetings and addressing the council members—and within a month, we had new signs.”
He credits his teachers with encouraging his early interest in politics. “I had great mentors, starting with my first-grade teacher, who emphasized the importance of community,” says Brandon, who’s also a political science major at the College of Southern Maryland.
When Brandon ran for office last year, he was up against the incumbent, who had served as mayor on and off since before Brandon was born, as well as another former mayor. However, Brandon—whose campaign slogan was “New vision, new way”—believes his age helped him.
“I think people were excited to see a young person taking a step up,” he says. “They saw the energy that I bring to the table.” On Election Day, Brandon won more than twice as many votes as the incumbent.