The Village of Robbins elected Darren E. Bryant as the first youngest African American mayor in the biggest upset with 52% of the vote over incumbent Mayor Tyrone Ward. Robbins has a rich history as the sixth oldest black incorporated community in the United States, the first airport built, owned, and operated by African Americans, the hometown of aviators, celebrities, and a notable millionaire. Mayor-Elect Darren E. Bryant’s mission is to reshape the future of Robbins with commercial, education, financial and residential development.
Tammy Gibson: How does it feel to make history as the first youngest African American Mayor of Robbins and the State of Illinois?
Mayor-Elect Darren E. Bryant: I would like to thank God for this moment. It feels good, but it’s a part of me and my DNA being from Robbins. Robbins has a history of African American pioneers, and once being a center of black culture in Illinois is astonishing. This is the people’s victory more so than mine, and it feels amazing to get it done for the people.
TG: How did you get started in public service?
Mayor-Elect Darren E. Bryant: With both of my parents being elected officials within the community, I was involved in local elections as a child. I began my political journey at Kentucky State University. There I served as Junior Class President in Student Government. After I graduated and came back to Robbins, at age 23, I was elected as Commissioner and Vice President at Robbins Park District. At age 25, I was elected as Village Trustee of Robbins, and now at 29, I’m the Mayor of the Village of Robbins.
TG: What are the most important issues Robbins is facing right now?
Mayor-Elect Darren E. Bryant: We must build our citizens. I call it the Big 3. We have a 38% poverty rate, 41% non-homeownership, and 15% higher education rate, and that is a problem. What I plan to do is move the municipality as an investment machine that will empower people through residential development, job training, and creation. Another issue that we are facing right now is that we are deprived of commercial real estate. We don’t have a business district in our community to offer amenities to our taxpayers. We have to keep the dollar within the community to regurgitate and build a strong community. We also have an infrastructure problem within our community from lighting, roads, and our water system. We must effectively spend state infrastructure dollars and other tax revenue on infrastructure needs while developing a comprehensive plan to addressing these concerns.
TG: What are your plans for economic development and education in Robbins?
Mayor-Elect Darren E. Bryant: My platform, I break the economic (economy) development into five areas:
Commercial/Industrial Development – We have to sit down with the Planning and Zoning Committee to re-zone and establish a business TIF district in our community and opportunity zones. We have to re-establish the Robbins Chamber of Commerce in which we will be able to have adversaries go out and advocate on behalf of the village and along with developing a comprehensive marketing strategy to lure companies into the community.
Residential Development – We are going to establish a housing program in which the municipality invests in real estate and buyback private home lots that will create jobs for developers, construction, and electricians. The main thing is that in order to help impact the 41% non-homeownership, we have to jump into that industry and serve as developers.
Financial Development – In my opinion, this is very important. We are going to continue to offer financial empowerment courses, credit repair, mortgage understanding, and other tips for creating wealth to build our citizens and offer them jobs.
Educational Development – I’m a teacher. I teach at the local community high school district. We must have a Robbins Resource Center that will offer trade programs, cosmetology school, military enrollment, CDL driver program, GED, and other college credit courses that will combat the 15% higher education rate.
From an inside-out approach here in District 218, we will be able to create a strong grasp on our future, which is our youth, to make sure we are guiding them after high school into one of these fields in collaboration with the school district.
Job Training and Creation – We have to create and offer jobs through the municipality. We are going to re-establish the Robbins Newspaper, establish a Robbins Radio Station and Robbins Television Program.
Public Works – Another job opportunity for physical laborers. We must train our people to handle our water infrastructure along with creating jobs through environmental cleaning and communication.
We have to train our people to be productive citizens and be able to handle inside jobs without having to outsource to other communities and vendors.
TG: In a few words, how would you describe the community of Robbins and the future of the historic city.
Mayor-Elect Darren E. Bryant: The community of Robbins is a family-orientated culture. It’s a culture of pride, and hard workers and history repeats itself. To understand the future, you must have knowledge of the past. We will restore the Village of Robbins into the dominant, culture-filled, prosperous town in which it once was.
TG: With you being the first youngest Mayor of Robbins, there will be young people that will look up to you. What advice would you give to them?
Mayor-Elect Darren E. Bryant: The sky is not the limit. Work hard, Be creative, be visionary, and most importantly be you. If you do those things, success will find you.
To learn more about the rebuilding of Robbins, IL, go to www.thecommunitycampaign.com.
Tammy Gibson is a black history traveler and author. Find her on Facebook, Instagram @SankofaTravelher, and Twitter @SankofaTravelHr.