MANASSAS, Va. — Manassas elected its first-ever Black female mayor, and she’s working to make sure she’s not the last.
Her name is Michelle Davis-Younger.
She grew up in Manassas and is determined to leave it a better place than she found it.
“It is so important to see people like me in positions like this,” Mayor Michelle, as she likes to be called, said.
She broke multiple ceilings to get to her current podium – first Democrat, first woman and first African-American elected mayor of Manassas.
“In the time that I'm given, that's what I'm going to do is try to open those doors and make it possible for others to come in,” Mayor Michelle said.
Because there were doors her parents weren’t allowed in for much of their lives.
“My dad is 88. My mom is 83… They've been here all their lives,” she said. “The segregation, the hatred, the just because of the color of your skin having to go in separate entrances that was right here in the city. “
She can now see one of those entrances from her office window in City Hall.
“Looking at that every day is a reminder like, yep, this is why I do what I do,” she said.
She remembers the past as she paves the path to a different future.
“I believe you're elevated to a position not just to sit there, but you are to share and make sure others can come behind you,” Mayor Michelle said. “And it's lifting as you climb.”
So, she’s lifting up young girls with her My Mayor Looks Like Me program.
Mayor Michelle lets the girls spend an hour in her shoes, first showing the wall of portraits of former mayors of Manassas.
“Look at the portraits on the wall, see them? So what’s the difference, what do you see? How they’re all male, yeah,” Mayor Michelle said talking to the girls. “I want my girls up on that wall filling in the rest of the row.”
She also lets them bang her gavel and interview her.
That’s when Isabella Salazar asked: “Did you like it when they elected you to be the first woman?”
She of course replied, “Yes.”
“I am so happy that she can see now that she can do whatever she wants,” Isabella’s mom, Carolina Salazar said. “If she wants, she has to work hard, but she can do it.”
The Salazars have worked hard to get to Manassas.
They moved from Ecuador last year, which they said definitely didn’t have programs like the mayor’s.
“I really, really liked it,” Isabella said. “It was a good idea. I get it to like show that girl or woman can do a lot more things than you think they can do.”
Langley Wright is already doing more than you’d think a 10-year-old could.
She started her own dog-walking business with a friend, and Mayor Michelle has encouraged her to continue it – checking on her periodically.
“Even in her school, she doesn't have a lot of Black women, but she can see, right? So, access to understanding what that person is doing, how they're making a difference locally, I think has inspired her to make a difference in our community, too,” Langley’s mom, Kenay Wright said.
“It tells me that I can be like them, but in my own unique way, and that they inspire me a bunch of the times,” she said.
Mayor Michelle also gives each of the girls gift bags with mirrors so they can tell themselves positive mantras and a notebook with a personalized, encouraging message.
“And I wanted people to see that this position is attainable,” she said. “I'm not untouchable. Like I'm real. And you can do it too.”
For the first time, these girls’ mayor looks like them, but it doesn’t have to be the last.
When asked if she was interested in becoming the next mayor, Langley said, “Um, maybe the next mayor of fashion.”
Moving forward – Mayor Michelle is looking to expand the program to include young boys as well to make sure no one is left out.
If you want to sign your child up, you can contact the mayor at email@example.com