Compton, Calif. has elected Aja Brown as its newest mayor. The 31-year-old urban planner beat former mayor Omar Bradley in a runoff mayoral election. She’s the youngest mayor in Compton’s history and is determined to make progress in the city.
“I believe the people of Compton are ready for change,” she said after being elected in June. “They’ve spoken. Their voice has clearly been heard that they don’t want to go backward. They want to go forward.”
The University of Southern California alum is not taking her new position lightly. Her top priorities include reducing crime, balancing the budget and improving Compton’s image. In a recent interview she addressed her priorities as follows:
“I think the City of Compton has suffered for quite some time from the lack of innovative policies, really collaborative efforts with the federal, state and regional elected officials and government agencies. Compton has been on an island fiscally so I look forward to really collaborating in order to move our visions forward: to go back to basics, to implement strategic plans, capital improvements plans that really lay out the infrastructure improvements in our community. My heart is really in building coalitions. The city of Compton has over 200 churches, 100 non-profits, small business communities and really large corporations and so we have an opportunity to really bridge the gap between those sectors and be able to provide a higher level of service to our residents.”
On balancing Compton’s budget:
“When I am actually sworn in, the budget will be already approved for this year so I can just really focus on the strategic planning effort which will be a city-wide game plan in place for the city of Compton to move forward. We have a lot of support and a lot of coalitions that are ready to move forward and so it will really be a lot of ground work so we’re ready and I have a great team.”
On reducing crime statistics in Compton:
“The crime in Compton has continued to get better ever since the sheriff came into contract with our local law enforcement agencies. Over the past ten years, crime has been reduced about 55 percent. Compton is a much safer Compton than it was in the ’80s. People play in parks. People aren’t afraid to be out at night. The crime is still a real issue so I look forward to partnering with the sheriffs to really bring back some community policing to the city of Compton and to enhance their efforts that are already instituted here in the city of Compton.”
On improving Compton’s image:
“Just working to brand and market the city as a practitioner – the perception is very real. It has economic impacts. I think having new leadership that’s fresh and young and even the gender change will definitely open up a new perspective I believe of the outside community of what Compton can be and what it will be in the future.”
“I really plan on being strategic on how we re-market our community not only to the outside world but also to the inside world. We have so many great things going on here but we don’t have that central platform to really share whats going on in our community so in order for us to attack that perception and to make it better, we have to tell our own story and I look forward to doing that.”
“When we look at the investment decisions into the city of Compton, the small business community and global corporations and retailers and all of those types of services that decide to come into the community to serve it, they look at the perception, how does the brand work with the local community. And I’ve worked for several communities. Inglewood is similar to Compton in some ways and certain brands won’t come into quote-on-quote urban communities because they feel that the perception doesn’t mesh well with their brand. So I think we’ve missed out on some opportunities to provide the basic goods and services to our community. But I think that there is an opportunity to really build relationships and say, “Hey – Compton is new. We’re moving forward. And we definitely have a community that is economically-viable to serve.” So I think we have a big challenge but also a huge opportunity.”
The historic moment isn’t lost on Brown. She sees her youth and womanhood as viable assets to thriving in her position.
“I think [being young and female] will help,” she said. “I think every thing just in the political realm – women are usually perceived to be more trustworthy and compassionate. And they usually fare well against their male counterpart.”
She adds, “I think they will be an asset to especially to a community like Compton that’s really suffered from neglect and despair in terms of leadership that we’ve had in the past. The community is really excited and I think it will serve as a great platform to continue to provide the type of services that are geared towards families and youth and kids and our seniors. So I think it will be an asset as we move the city of Compton forward.”