Young mayor election makes history


Emmanuel Olaniyan will be overseeing a budget of £30,000 in his second term as young mayor. Pic: Live Vision

He is poised to make his debut on CBBC in January and was the brains behind revamping Ladywell skatepark, but is only just old enough to buy a lottery ticket.

Last night, Forest Hill’s Emmanuel Olaniyan, 17, became the first teenager to be sworn in as young mayor of Lewisham for a second time.

“I’m really so humbled, I had no idea I’d get elected as it’s never happened twice before,” he said before addressing a packed council chamber at Catford’s Civic Centre. “This time I’ve got even more ideas and now I’m more mature, so I can bring even more to the young people.”

Sir Steve Bullock, the Mayor of Lewisham, who started the young mayor programme, said that Olaniyan and his deputy young mayor Hanna Dimstu, 15, were “shining examples” of young people in the borough.

Lewisham was the first borough in the UK to have a directly elected young mayor. The young mayor serves a one-year term, oversees a budget of at least £30,000 and works with the young advisers and Young Citizens’ Panel to inform the work of the mayor, council and other decision-making bodies.

Dimstu says she cried on the day she found out she had been elected deputy young mayor, and she had never seen her parents so proud. She is most excited about launching Lewisham’s Got Talent early next year and hopes to develop better sporting, dance, music and performance arts facilities in the borough.

The former young mayor, Liam Islam, 15, said: “When you’re elected young mayor you need to work hard and remember to stay true to the people, work on relationships and remember it’s not about you, it’s about representation.”

His year as young mayor involved attending national conferences, speaking at Strasbourg European Parliament, traveling to Sweden to share good practice with young people and support the council in civic and hosting events. A highlight was “working closely with local MP Vicky Foxcroft in campaigning to lower the legal voting age to 16,” a cause close to his heart.

Olaniyan “can’t wait to get started” and wants to set an example during his time in office. “A lot of people stereotype me because of the way I dress, but I really want young people in Lewisham to know that you don’t need to play the stereotype, you really can just be yourself.”

Follow Amalia Illgner on Twitter @amaliaillgner

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