A gay 19-year-old has become one of the youngest elected officials in the United States after winning a spot on his local town’s council.
Keagan Roberts from South Berwick, a tiny hamlet of nearly 7,500 people located in Maine, took home the second-largest share of the votes for a seat on the South Berwick Town Council earlier in November.
Once Roberts is sworn in, he will become the youngest city council member in South Berwick’s history, and one of the youngest elected officials in the entire United States.
Speaking to Out magazine, Roberts describes his humble hometown as a place where “everyone knows everyone” and said it has been “such a great place to grow up” as a young gay person. Roberts’ journey to self-identity and acceptance began in middle-school, after coming out in a Facebook post to a “pretty small town” and a family that was overall supportive and accepting.
“I hope that it doesn’t matter how young you are, it doesn’t matter how you identify, you can do whatever you put your mind to,” he said.
“My school was super understanding,” he told Out.
“I really didn’t face too much bullying, at least to my face, which was nice. I also have a twin brother who’s gay, so that kind of made high school a little bit easier. It’s amazing. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
After missing the original deadline to be on the ballot, Roberts took the community-centred approach by knocking on over 200 doors and greeting voters at Town Hall on the rainy November 5 day.
“I said [hello] to almost everyone who walked in the door. [It was] rainy out there, so I had to go home and dry my clothes off a couple of times, but I spent 10 hours at the polls,” he told MTV News.
As for missing the deadline, Keagan managed to score 20.5 per cent of the overall vote through the US write-in candidacy – a form of voting where electors must write the candidates’ name on their ballots for him to gain votes.
Roberts’ reason for acquiring votes? He wanted to give young people in South Berwick a voice. As no one his age has ever served in local government, he told Out that “there’s a whole demographic that not really being completely spoken for because you don’t really have anyone [my] age speaking”.
Now, Roberts and John Kareckas, the top-vote winner, will both earn seats on the South Berwick Town Council after all votes are certified.
“I was just really proud of what I was able to do and just what I was able to accomplish,” said Roberts.
Roberts’ political win comes as the 2020 presidential election draws closer, with openly gay US Democratic Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg announcing his candidacy for the 2020 United States presidential election.
Buttigieg served as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana in 2011 and was later re-elected 2015. It was before his re-election that he publicly came out as gay – during a time when the ‘Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell’ military policy was in full-swing and current Vice President, Mike Pence presided over the “socially conservative” state of Indiana.
Buttigieg, like Roberts, decided to come out in a short and simple letter to his local newspaper.
“Being gay has had no bearing on my job performance in business, in the military, or in my current role as mayor. It makes me no better or worse at handling a spreadsheet, a rifle, a committee meeting or a hiring decision,” he wrote.