19-Year-Old Set To Take Seat On Council
Posted: November 14, 2012
ELKTON — While other parents were driving their kids to sporting practices, Lisa Gooden was dropping her son off at Town Council meetings.
Discussions about zoning amendments, infrastructure improvements and utility rates bore most adults, never mind teenagers.
But no conversation involving Elkton is too mundane for Joshua Gooden.
“Community has always been a focus for Joshua,” his mother, Lisa, said. “Especially, Elkton’s history. Whenever he had to write a speech or do a project, it always was about Elkton.”
Gooden, who celebrated his 19th birthday Sunday, made his own history last week when he was elected to Town Council. When Gooden takes his oath in January, he’ll become what town officials believe to be the youngest council member in Elkton’s 104-year history.
With 631 votes, Gooden was the top vote-getter among the six candidates vying for three open seats, taking nearly 20 percent of the votes cast in the election.
“I think [voters wanted] a younger perspective,” Gooden said. “Most of the people [believed] we need young blood in there and a new voice.”
Mayor Roy Davis said he doesn’t expect Gooden’s age to be an issue in working with other council members. Gooden’s next youngest peer on the seven-member governing board is nearly three times his age.
“We need some young people getting involved,” Davis said. “He seems to be levelheaded and someone who thinks things out.”
Gooden graduated in June from East Rockingham High School and is now a freshman at Bridgewater College, where he’s majoring in business administration.
He lives at home with his parents, Joe and Lisa, and two siblings, Joseph, 16, and Jaclyn, 14.
Gooden, who picked up the nickname “Mr. Elkton” in middle school, said he never considered moving from his hometown for college.
“I wanted to stay at home no matter where I went,” he said. “I just felt more comfortable and content with where I was.”
Gooden recalls attending his first council meeting while still in elementary school, tagging along with his mother Lisa, who is director of the East Rockingham Senior Center.
By the time Gooden reached middle school, he was a regular at the monthly meetings, and almost always the youngest person in the room.
Gooden said he attended the meetings — some of which stretch 90 minutes or longer — to stay informed on what’s happening in the community.
As a councilman, Gooden hopes to focus on economic development, finding ways to bring more businesses to the town.
For Gooden, public service runs in his blood. His great-grandfather is a former Elkton mayor and his grandfather has served on Town Council in Stanley.
Gooden made a last-minute decision to run for council, collecting the 125 required signatures in about 36 hours to meet the June 5 filing deadline, just two days after he graduated from ERHS.
His mother wasn’t surprised. And by midmorning on Election Day, as they spoke with voters outside of the Elkton Area Community Center, Lisa Gooden said she had developed a good feeling about her son’s chances of winning a seat on council.
That’s when she told him how this could possibly serve as a springboard to something even bigger in his future.
But he wasn’t looking beyond Elkton.
“He said, ‘Mom, I don’t want to leave Elkton,’” she said. “He’s eager to do what he can here for his town.”
Contact Doug Manners at 574-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org