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On the Move: Michelle Davis-Younger Breaks Three Glass Ceilings

New Mayor of Manassas Garners Votes from Diverse Constituency

In 2018, Michelle Davis-Younger made history after becoming the first African American elected to the City Council in her hometown of Manassas, Va.

Now, just two short years later, she’s achieved another first – this time securing a political trifecta as the first Democrat, woman and African American elected as mayor of Manassas.

In a city of roughly 41,000 residents, Davis-Younger defeated her City Council colleague Theresa Coates Ellis, a Republican, in a race in which every vote counted. Davis-Younger won with 7,903 votes, or 51.2 percent while Ellis lost with 7,514 votes or about 49 percent of the vote.

“My dad’s going to be 87 in January but he cried like a baby,” said the mayor-elect. “My parents are lifelong residents, born here in Manassas and never left. They saw the ugly segregated Manassas and have now seen their daughter become the mayor. My mother scrubbed floors in houses on Grant Avenue near Old Towne Manassas where I’ll be sworn in.”

“The mayor doesn’t vote in Manassas unless there’s a tie, so I’m going to miss being able to vote on things and letting people know where I stand on issues. But my constituents will still have my commentary letting them know my perspective. It’s really the council that has a lot of power,” Davis-Younger said.

Claudrena Harold, a professor of African American History at the University of Virginia, counts the victory of Davis-Younger as part of the recent trend of Black women being elected to powerful positions in different levels of government.

“Without question, she stands on the shoulders of millions of African-American women who have worked to deepen the wells of democracy,” she said. “Her election underscores the changing demographics of not just Northern Virginia [which just four years ago was GOP-dominated] but the larger nation.”

Manassas also holds special significance in history, representing the place where the first battle of the Civil War would be fought.

“Just a few months after the Southern states seceded from the Union, in response to Lincoln’s election, the Battle of Bull Run was fought on July 21, 1861,” said Paul Quigley, director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech. “It was a wake-up call to a lot of Americans that this Civil War was going to be a real war.”

Davis-Younger said that while she appreciates the celebratory spirit that has accompanied her victory, she’s ready to get to work.

“Breaking barriers is great. But now I can set the tone of the city to sing a different tune rather than the way it’s always been done” she said adding that she realizes that as the “first” she faces many challenges in achieving her campaign goals.

Kenneth Nixon, Davis-Younger’s campaign manager for both her Manassas City Council campaign and her run for mayor, will continue to help her navigate many obstacles before her.

“As an African-American woman, she must establish her legitimacy and credibility,” Nixon said. “She has to make sure she runs an orderly, productive meeting when she [takes] that gavel to establish her leadership and her presence.”

“For the last two and a half years, she campaigned on being a bridge-builder. So, they’re going to be looking to see if she reaches out and whether she can come up with solutions that benefit everyone. One big issue is going to be education and strengthening the relationship with the school board. Another is transportation. There’s a lot of traffic that comes from the county and flows through the city,” he said.

And while Davis-Younger said she’s aware of these challenges, she still encourages people especially youth to get involved with their local governments and to never give up on their dreams.

“I’ve been a single mom. I’ve been broke, busted and disgusted,” she said. “I have been fed up and I have felt like I was all alone. But [we all] have a purpose in life. Every single day that we get up is another chance – one that we should not waste,” she said.

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