At the age of 26, Michael Tubbs made history when he was elected as mayor of Stockton, CA in 2016. He is not only the first black mayor of Stockton, but the youngest elected in the city’s history.
Michael Tubbs was born in Stockton. He and his brother were raised by their teen mother; his father (also named Michael Tubbs) is currently serving a life sentence in prison for kidnapping, drug possession, and robbery.
In 2007, while in high school, Tubbs won an essay contest sponsored by Alice Walker. His essay, “Parent’s Mistakes Made Me Succeed,” criticized his father’s “scapegoat mentality” and praised his mother for overcoming adversity. The essay was published in the San Francisco Chronicle. You can read that essay here.
He graduated from high school in 2008 with an International Baccalaureate diploma – from an international educational foundation headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland that focuses on teaching students to think critically and independently, and how to inquire with care and logic. That following July, he and two other teens won a national debate competition sponsored by the NAACP in Cincinnati. The trio advocated for universal health care. That debate was followed by a speech by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Tubbs attended Stanford University, earning a BA in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity and an MA in Policy, Leadership and Organization Studies. He received the Truman Scholarship, a graduate fellowship for public service leadership. And, he was the joint winner of Stanford’s Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel award for “distinctive and exceptional contributions to…the quality of student life.” While in college, Tubbs served as President of the school’s NAACP chapter, and interned at the White House and Google.
Tubb’s wife, Anna Malaika Nti-Asare, earned a bachelor’s from Stanford and a master’s degree in multidisciplinary gender studies from the University of Cambridge, where she is currently a Gates Cambridge Scholar working towards a PhD in education.
He returned to Stockton because his cousin had been murdered while Tubbs was interning at the White House. And, the first thing he did when he came home was run for City Council. With almost 62% of the vote, Tubbs was elected to the Stockton City Council at age 22. He was the youngest council-member in Stockton history and one of the youngest elected officials in the United States. It’s because of this that a documentary was made about him, called True Son.
His run for mayor began in 2015. A week before elections, he got the endorsement of Obama. He won the election with almost 71% of the vote. Tubbs plans to work to reduce violent crime, foster economic development, and improve public education.
Tubbs has his work cut out for him. In 2012, Stockton’s foreclosure rate was the highest in the country, and it also became the largest city in the country to go bankrupt. Tubbs has a basic universal income initiative in place. In this pilot program, several dozen Stockton families will get $500 a month, no strings attached, with the goal of gathering data on the economic and social effects of giving people a basic income. In his own words, the city also has a “progressive general plan that calls for infill development on the housing front. We just approved a fee reduction for people who want to build affordable housing. We allocated a bunch of dollars from our general fund around homelessness to do more housing for really low-income people.” And, there is the Stockton Scholars program, which will make California State University tuition essentially free for the vast majority of students in Stockton.
“I think having a father who’s incarcerated has given me a path for criminal justice reform and also to help folks when they’re coming back to reintegrate into society, so after their debt is paid, they’re not continually paying a debt.” – Michael Tubbs