Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs was born to a 16-year-old single-mother while his father was incarcerated. Stockton’s first black mayor also happens to be the youngest to win election to the post. He recently visited incarcerated youth to share his story.

Story by Ike Dodson, CDCR PIO, OPEC
Photos by Kelvin Thomas

The first black mayor of Stockton, Michael Tubbs, is also the youngest person to ever hold that position. He rallied behind a $10,000 campaign donation by Oprah and an endorsement of then-President Barack Obama to claim over 70 percent of votes in the 2016 mayoral election.

The 26-year-old Stanford University graduate has pledged to reinvent one of America’s most troubled cities — one that became the largest city in the U.S. to file for bankruptcy in 2013.

Michael Tubbs, the 26-year-old mayor of Stockton, talks with incarcerated youth at O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility Feb. 28.

His story, from struggle to success, offered an inspiring moment inside O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility Feb. 28, as Tubbs spoke candidly with 11 incarcerated youth in Carlos Cordero’s Transition to Success class at Johanna Boss High School.

Tubbs said the purpose of his visit was to speak to offenders who were trying to find a better path in life. He spoke to students already learning workforce skills needed to overcome the challenges of returning to the labor market and the community.

“I hope that my words helped to brighten their day and let them know there is a better path available if they stay focused and out of trouble,” Tubbs said. “The talk went very well. The conversation was able to take on a more engaging-style with the young men’s thoughtful questions.

“I am glad it was not just me lecturing at the front of the class. I think it’s important for them to know that the mayor of Stockton cares. “

The youth of O.H. Close drew parallels in their own paths to incarceration with Tubbs, who was born to a 16-year-old single-mother while his father was inside a correctional facility.

“I felt that I could relate to this crowd very well,” Tubbs said. “I am familiar with their stories. I grew up in a similar situation, but was lucky to make it out.

“Many of my friends and family members did not experience the same level of success, and I felt that sharing my story of being born to a teenage mother and a father incarcerated helped them relate to me.”

Cordero collaborated with Foster Grandparent Kathleen Jones to bring Stockton’s youngest elected official to O.H. Close. Foster Grandparents are seniors that sit in the school classrooms and encourage students to pay attention to the teacher. They also provide some direct assistance with schoolwork and homework.

Johanna Boss High Principal Susan Harrower also played a big role in bringing Tubbs to O.H. Close, and Cordero was thrilled to host the event in his class.

“Our students felt as though Mayor Tubbs was there for them,” Cordero said. “His presentation was a personable and a memorable experience for our young men.”

A moment in the talk resonated with the youth, when a young offender asked Tubbs how he wanted to be remembered.

“Mayor Tubbs told him to ‘Be the drummer,’ a passage from one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches prior to his assassination,” Cordero said. “He referenced the drummer as an individual front and center of a marching band. However, he cautioned against being the drummer who beats the drum for the spotlight — be the individual who is a drummer for justice, change and positivity.

“Mayor Tubbs said to be the drummer that can make a difference in someone’s life for the better.”

Principal Harrower was excited by the visit.

“He was well-received by our young men who had a lot of very good questions for him,” she said. “He is a delightful young man who, at age 26, is the youngest mayor of a city with a population over 100,000.”

The talk also aided Mayor Tubbs in his quest to reinvent a vast community in distress.

“Hearing their stories and learning the support they needed to not be incarcerated was very helpful for me to better inform my policy strategies,” Tubbs said. “I think it is important to reach individuals before they make a decision with negative consequences that puts them in jail or prison.”

Mayor Michael Tubbs fielded questions from the youth of O.H. Close Feb. 28.