Kalan Haywood is about to make history, as he’s just three months away from being sworn in to represent Milwaukee’s 16th District, making him the youngest lawmaker in Wisconsin and possibly the nation.
” … Being young is going to play well with some people, but there will also be people who doubt me because of my age, which is fair — it’s new,” Haywood, a 19-year-old Democrat, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “My age is my biggest asset.”
With dreams of running for public office since he was 8 years old, Haywood has always had a knack for public service. He was elected to Milwaukee Youth Council by the time he was 14 and later served as student body president his last few years of high school. His dreams were finally realized in August when he emerged victorious in a five-way primary election.
With no Republican contender, the second-year business major is assured the 16th District seat come January.
Haywood is already beating all the odds, considering the average state lawmaker is white, male, a Protestant baby boomer with a graduate degree and a background in business, a 2015 National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) report showed. The teenager says his tender age is what sets him apart from other lawmakers in the U.S.
“I am not aware of any legislators younger than 20 at the moment, so it is likely that if a 19-year-old was just elected that he would be the youngest state legislator out there …,” said John Mahoney, policy specialist at the NCSL’s Center for Legislative Strengthening.
Democratic Rep. David Bowen, 31, agrees but said he’s warned Haywood that some folks might be skeptical about what he can bring to the table.
“I’ve kind of warned him,” said Bowen, who was elected to the Milwaukee County Board when he was 25 and is named as one of Haywood’s trusted mentors. The congressman recalled when he was first elected to the county government and the leaders of county departments wondered, “who is this kid?”
“It’s likely he’ll be underestimated,” Bowen added. “Some folks think you don’t have that much to contribute.”
Haywood says he’s ready to prove the naysayers wrong. At the top of his agenda, the Cardinal Stritch University sophomore said he wants to amend to a new state law requiring high school students to pass a civics exam, the Journal Sentinel reported. Haywood’s proposal would also require students to register to vote once they turn 18. The push comes after Milwaukee saw a decline of nearly 41,000 voters in the 2016 election compared to the 2012 election.
“Adding the requirement of registering to vote is very important, especially in my district where we get a very low (voter) turnout compared to a total population,” he told the newspaper.
Haywood said he also hopes to take his experience as a public youth leader and apply it to craft legislation that will benefit both his city and its school system.
“The state Legislature as a whole — they are missing a young person’s perspective,” he said. “I want to make sure MPS gets proper funding — I am a proud MPS graduate.”
Haywood will be sworn in the Assembly chambers at the Wisconsin Capitol to represent Milwaukee’s 16th Assembly District in January.