At age 27, Nathan Bates is becoming the next mayor of Stillwater, winning the close election by a fitting 27 votes..surely a huge upset in the realm of municipal politics. He has still not graduated college, due in part to his intermittent service in the U.S. Navy for several years.
"Many people thought the incumbent could not be defeated out here and a student running for office was a joke," Bates said. "As unexpected as this has turned out to be, it is the single greatest honor I've had in my life, and I will serve to the best of my ability."
Friends of mine in Stillwater thought him running for mayor was a joke, even, because he didn't have the best platform and had no experience. But apparently you don't need either in order to be mayor of a town dominated by a large state university. The latest statistics show 48,000 people living in Stillwater (a huge increase over 39,000 since 2000), and there are about 24,000 students at OSU in Stillwater. It becomes very obvious how a student could win mayor if just enough people stop by the polls to vote him in.
In May 2008, Muskogee elected John Tyler Hammons, a student at NSU in Tahlequah who is now 20 years old, as the youngest mayor in the country. Perhaps this is just the beginning of a growing trend across the Sooner State..one that has not yet played out. The jury is still out whether these college students would make good mayors, so the fate of future college students' mayoral campaigns (what an ironic phrase?) rests on the performance of this first batch.