There were many surprises nationally after Tuesday’s midterm elections, from the strength of Democrats in many races amid a “red wave” that was more of a ripple, to the overwhelming support for abortion rights in states across the country.
But in the small town of Bogalusa, which sits in a part of conservative rural Louisiana where almost 70% of voters went for Donald Trump in 2020, residents opted to elect a new mayor who made no secret that he’s a Democrat.
The other surprising factor? He’s just 23.
“Age was the main concern in my race. Everybody had concerns: ‘Oh, you're just 23!’” Mayor-elect Tyrin Truong told BuzzFeed News in an interview Thursday. “But like I told people on the campaign trail: I'm young, but I can get it done.”
“Young people, we have new ideas. We have the energy to execute things that older people normally don't,” Truong added. “That was my selling point.”
According to official figures from the Louisiana secretary of state, Truong received more than 55% of votes from Bogalusa’s almost 11,000 residents, besting Mayor Wendy O'Quin Perrette, who had been elected in 2014. Truong got 1,736 votes compared to the incumbent’s 605, while City Council member Teddy Drummond earned 770 votes. Both of them ran without any party affiliation, while Truong ran as a Democrat.
Truong’s election caused something of a stir on Twitter thanks to a supportive tweet from a distant cousin, but the new mayor says that while he uses social media as much any Gen Z’er, his main focus right now is getting a transition team before he formally assumes office on New Year’s Day so that he can deliver on the change he promised.
While he’s by no means the youngest person ever elected as mayor of an American town, Truong will certainly be among the youngest current officeholders when he’s sworn in.
“Tyrin was kind of able to sort of make himself to be the change candidate,” Justin Schuver, publisher and editor of the Bogalusa Daily News, told BuzzFeed News. “I just think maybe the mood sort of is really anti-incumbent from a national standpoint, and I think that even trickles down to small-town America.”
Bogalusa, which lies on the Mississippi border north of New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain, has struggled in recent years. As jobs disappear and the town shrinks, urban decay and crime are on the rise. Six people were shot dead in the town last year, which was double the year before, according to the New Orleans Advocate. Eight have been fatally shot so far this year, almost all of them young Black men like Truong.
The fact that the small town’s murder rate is on par with that of New Orleans is what the new mayor says compelled him to run. Just the other week, Truong was among those fleeing when shots rang out at a high school football game, leaving a 15-year-old dead.
“When I was in college, I always knew that I wanted to run for something, but I never thought it would be this soon,” he said. “But after constantly seeing that most of the victims are people my age, some people that I went to school with, and at that point, I was just like, you know, I have to try to do something about this.”
Schuver said the new mayor impressed voters during the campaign by calling for police to be more present in the community, not just at crime scenes, and by suggesting ideas to maximize economic opportunities with the town’s existing airport and a new interstate corridor.
“I wouldn't be shocked if someday you don't see him running for much larger races on the line as well,” Schuver said. “Somebody that young might make mistakes along the line, but I think even the ones who didn't support him would have to agree that he's got a good head on his shoulders.”
Truong may be young, but he had an impressive résumé before his election. He attended Washington University in St. Louis, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and served as student body president. He then interned on Capitol Hill and worked as a teacher at a local school.
The new mayor says he’s subverting the stereotype that young people are apathetic to politics or social change. “We're fired up right now because there are so many things going wrong in our country and we know that we have to live with the impact,” he said.
He’s also grateful that voters of all ages put their faith in him to run Bogalusa, and he hopes to make his fellow Gen Z’ers proud.
“It's not lost on me the responsibility to represent my generation well, because I know that there are a lot of people that are still skeptical and you're waiting to see what happens,” Truong said. “It's humbling and it's also a huge responsibility, but I'm not going to take it lightly.”