There wasn’t anything unusual or exciting about the white shirt, gray slacks, black shoes or the red, diamond patterned tie that Jael P. Myrick wore. Even the way he blended in with people didn’t make him seem out of the ordinary.
Myrick is to all appearances a regular guy. But in a field of City Council candidates where many of the big names are part of a deep partisan division, the 27-year-old Myrick hopes his youth and regular-guyness brings a different sensibility to the race. That youth, he believes, gives him an opportunity to better reach the troubled youth in Richmond.
“You guys know it better than anybody, they are causing most of the trouble, it’s young folks, it’s teenagers a lot of the time,“ Myrick said at a recent community meeting held at the Crescent Park Management Office and Multicultural Family Resource Center.
It was the first of three consecutive meetings that evening, and Myrick had his points ready for different audiences and different venues. At a fundraising event held for him by former Contra Costa College President McKinley Williams, he talked about his success in helping get the Officer Brad Moody memorial underpass financed, while the candidate’s forum held in Marina Bay was more of an introduction to those who did not know him.
A heavy focus of Myrick’s campaign is the state of the youth and education in Richmond. Myrick believes that investing in teenagers early will begin to solve many of the problems surrounding public safety and violence.
“If we invest in our young people you will see a huge drop in violence in our city. I know it for a fact,” Myrick said. “So I have announced a plan to guarantee that every young person in Richmond is able to go to college, university or even a trade school.”
Myrick said it would take $5 million —and that it could be done if the issue became more of a priority.
His success, he says, is due to the support his family has given him and the expectations that were set for him.
“The reason I did OK is because my mother is a college graduate, my grandmother is a college graduate and it was always expected that I wasn’t going to be a knucklehead,” he said.
Myrick was born in Richmond. He attended Kennedy High and despite his young age has been an advocate for Richmond on behalf of the 14th Assembly District and Assemblymember Nancy Skinner for almost four years now.
He said he was intrigued by politics while attending Kennedy High.
“I was on the debate team at Kennedy High so I was kind of a nerd in that sense,” Myrick said.
When Myrick turned 21, he co-founded Standing To Represent Our Next Generation, STRONG, whose purpose was working toward involving the youth in the political process.
“One of the things that I am most proud of with STRONG is that we have an annual activist training for young people in June of each year and each year we get about 50-80 kids from across the East Bay,” Myrick said.
The training focuses on organizational skills and activism.
Myrick’s first real job was for the California League of Conservation Voters, where he worked on environmental issues and fundraising. It was through the work of STRONG and CLCV that he met Nancy Skinner and after volunteering on her campaign in 2008, he received a job offer from Skinner’s office.
“She offered me a job, I originally thought she was joking,” Myrick said. “But then on election day I was with her again and she offered me a job again and was serious and told me specifically what she wanted me to do.”
He’s been working for her office ever since as a field representative for Richmond.
Myrick says, the bickering among City Council members motivated him to run for office himself. He says those same troublemaking teenagers are more tolerant than current members of council.
“I have friends who were gang members and in opposing gangs and they knew that I was sort of non affiliated but none of them ever had a problem with me being close with folks who were in opposing gangs and whatnot,” Myrick said. “In the political scene in Richmond now, you see sort of a similar dynamic but people are a lot less forgiving when they see you with the enemy.”
He said he hopes that if he is elected, he can change the dynamic and move toward not just bridging the gaps but collaborating.
“There seems to be a culture that values confrontation, you don’t value consensus building or working together,” he said. “I’ve got a relationship with Nat, I’ve got a relationship with Marilyn, I’ve got a relationship with Gail, I’ve got relationships with everybody. I don’t necessarily consider myself running against anybody. I’m running to represent the people of Richmond and when I look at it, a lot of the [confrontational] culture isn’t necessary.”
Not, he said, that he thought it would be easy.
“I’m not naïve and I am not overly cocky,” he said. “I don’t think I am going to get there and the heavens are going to open up and everybody is going to say, ‘Oh, let’s just work together’.”
But even if he’s not elected he won’t give up. The real point of getting the council to work together, he said, is in working together to improve life in Richmond.
“Even if I lose this election, I am going to continue to advocate for helping the youth go to college or university,” Myrick said.