(Photo credit: Twitter / HBGanttCenter)
Joel Odom, the youngest candidate for Charlotte’s mayoral election, was found dead in his home this week. The cause of death is still unknown. However, the extent of the impact of Odom has been recognized by community leaders and organizations in Charlotte.
The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture in Charlotte, North Carolina, offers condolences to Odom’s family. The Gantt center is named after Charlotte’s first African American mayor.
“We are stunned. Joel Odom died at the age of 22. At 20, he was the youngest candidate in Charlotte’s 2019 Mayor race, but he was much more than that. The drive and tenacity of this young man are exemplary for every generation. Our hearts and our love go to the Odom family. “
Become the youngest candidate for mayor in Charlotte
Odom never allowed his age to limit its effectiveness. In 2019, Joel Odom made history as the youngest person to ever run for mayor of Charlotte. Despite doubts from voters who might have thought Odom too young, he was up to the challenge.
“I’m looking forward to proving the opposite to all of these people,” Odom told WBTV Charlotte at the time. “To show them that I have what it takes to be that leader.”
At the age of 20, Odom announced his campaign to remove Democratic incumbent Vi Lyles in the 2019 main race. Odom finished fourth in a field of five Dems, garnering 3.6 percent of the vote.
“We know the person with the most referrals doesn’t always win,” Odom told The Charlotte Observer. “What motivated me to run is that so many young people die on the street.”
Inspiration for the next generation of leaders
Odom may be only 22 years old, but his courage inspired a generation of young voters in Charlotte.
“Somebody has to inspire young people,” Odom told WBTV in 2019. “That is the only solution. Somebody really has to take care of the people of Charlotte, and I take care of that. “
Odom helped younger voters get involved in the political process. He became an agent for change and encouraged everyone to oppose what they thought was impossible.
“Nothing is impossible,” Odom told the Charlotte Post. “All you have to do is try. I will keep trying. The main thing is that I care about people and put myself there to do something. I don’t sit around and say [young people] don’t vote and all that stuff. I voted in every election. My great grandparents taught me the importance of voting and I know my story. I know where I’m from so anything is possible. God guides my steps. “
Odom was a member of the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. The organization’s chairwoman, Stephanie Sneed, shared the power of its effects when she was just 22 years old. “At such a young age, he was an integral part of the community and an influencer in Charlotte politics, despite not being an elected official,” Sneed told the Charlotte Post. “His physical absence leaves a great void.”