Forbes Magazine recently announced their 2018 30 under 30 class—a diverse list of ambitious individuals making meaningful and impactful change in the worlds of politics, social activism, entertainment, business, science, and technology. One honoree in particular stood out from the impressive group—Michael Tubbs, who at 27, is the first African-American to hold the highest office in the City of Stockton.
Michael started on the political track at just 22 when he was elected to city council. A fresh graduate from Stanford University and ready to conquer the world, he returned to his hometown of Stockton after a series of horrific crimes, culminating with the murder of his cousin, spurred him to tackle violence and public safety in his city. His compelling platform rallied the support of his entire community and influential leaders including Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama.
Michael shared with us how he got his calling to public service and why he believes “coming back home” is a solution for millenials hoping to set the wheels of change in motion.
At just 22, you were elected to Stockton’s City Council. Could you describe what sort of state the city was in?
When I decided to run for city council in 2012, the city was at rock bottom. We had back-to-back years of record homicides, we had just declared bankruptcy and the morale of the city was at an all-time low.
What changes did you envision for your Stockton?
I envisioned reinventing Stockton through focusing on investments in human capital and using best practices and collective impact approaches for some of our most pressing community issues: poverty, violence, economic development and education.
Michael inspired young people to upset the setup at TEDxSanJoaquin.
What were some of the immediate issues you wanted to tackle?
Because of the murder of my cousin in 2010, I immediately wanted to tackle violence and crime.
How did you work up the confidence and courage to manage such an important role at a young age?
As a person of faith, I felt a calling to go back to Stockton and do my best to improve my community. I was afraid but was more worried about what would happen to my family and the city that I loved if no changes were made.
As Stockton’s youngest and first African-American Mayor you are a hero and inspiration to many people, especially to your community. Are there mentors or experiences that primed you for this major accomplishment?
I have learned from heroes like my mom, grandmother, aunt, Marian Wright Edelman and some amazing community activists over the past several years. Their stories, wisdom and bravery have prepared me for this moment.
You’re redefining success as “coming back home” and doing everything in your power to improve the community you’re from. How do you motivate people your age (a generation that is often collectively described as lost, wandering millennials), to invest in a community where they feel disenfranchised?
I motivate people my age by giving them the opportunity to lead and contribute and to be a part of the solution. Several of my staff members and community partners are millennials and completely disprove the stereotype of an apathetic generation.
Finally, what’s next on the horizon for you?
I’m going to spend the next four to eight years working around the clock to improve outcomes in my hometown. After that, I’ll pursue opportunities that allow me to impact the issue I am most passionate about—expanding opportunity for all Americans, especially the most marginalized.