rebelling against low expectations

John Tyler Hammons: 19-Year-Old Mayor


John Tyler Hammons: Oklahoma's Teen MayorIt was three years ago that John Tyler Hammons saw an article about 18-year-old Michael Sessions being elected mayor of Hillsdale, Michigan. “I remember [thinking] that’s something I’d like to do,” recalls Hammons, now 19. With the encouragement of friends and the support of his family, he decided to give it a shot.

It wasn’t easy. Hammons’ ran against a 70-year-old former three-term mayor of the city of 38,000. He was outspent nearly five to one. Even so, in Tuesday’s election Hammons won in landslide, taking 70 percent of the vote. He calls the win “the greatest, humbling and most awesome experience I’ve ever had.”

Normal Teen. Big Job. Enormous Brouhaha.

“Apart from this passion I have for government, I’m pretty normal,” says Hammons, in an interview with ABC News. “I’m probably super normal.” And this super normal teen is about to tackle a pretty big job.

Mayor of Muskogee, Oklahoma, is not a figurehead position. The mayor oversees a nine-member city council and supervises an annual city operating budget of $27.83 million. In return Hammons will receive an annual salary of $1 and office space.

Yet, as Hammons tries to hit the ground running as mayor, the limelight is growing. Besides numerous interview requests, he has received a proposal for a book deal, invitations to appear on national talk shows and three offers for a reality television program. It seems that teens doing hard things is so… so… unexpected.

“First and foremost, Muskogee is my one and only interest right now,” says Hammons from his office inside the city’s municipal building. As mayor, his first priority is to promote openness of government and keep citizens better informed of city operations. “I think that’s been a detriment to the trust of the citizens of Muskogee,” he said. “Once we have that trust, we can solve any other problem.”

Another Teen Mayor Offers His Advice

Michael Sessions, considered the youngest person ever elected mayor, was quick to offer Hammons some advice, urging him to “listen carefully” and “take notes” while he’s in office. “[Hammons] is going to be looked at as the outsider and the kid, in some respects, but he he’s got to take them on,” Sessions told “When [the council members] make stupid comments, he’s got to refute them.”

Hammon, thought conscious of his age, feels like it shouldn’t be a major factor. “The only thing I have going against me is that I’ve never [been mayor] before,” Hammons said. “But that’s true, even if you’re 50.”

From The Desk of Alex & Brett Harris

When Michael Sessions was elected there was a similar media frenzy. It’s hard to believe that was almost three years ago. At the time Alex and I wrote the following letter of encouragement to Michael. With a few edits we’d like to address the same encouragements to the new mayor of Muskogee.

Dear John Tyler,

The Rebelution is extremely excited for you for many reasons. But primarily because you are one more example of how our culture doesn’t quite know what to do with young people who take initiative and do hard things.

The media blitz that you’ve faced has granted us small glimpses into the mind of a passionate young man with a strong family and with 1 Timothy 4:12 on his campaign website. Knowing very little about you personally, we are encouraged by the character and competence you have demonstrated.

We applaud you Mr. Hammons, but we would also like to offer you the following counsel—two 19-year-olds to another:

  • Don’t stop! Keeping “doing hard things” in public and, more importantly, in private. The true test of character is doing what’s right even when it costs you. Even when no one else sees.
  • Remember that despite the blatant abdication of modern “celebrities” and leaders, you are a role model. Live like one.
  • You posted this verse on your campaign website: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12) Think about what it means and how it applies to your new position.
  • Remember that in our “Fast-Breaking News” society, you can be picked up and dropped again by the media in the twinkling of an eye. Don’t let it upset you. We are not called to be famous. We are called to be faithful.
  • Fight pride constantly! We commend to you the short article, “How To Fight The Sin Of Pride Especially When You Are Praised,” by Pastor John Piper, as well as C.J. Mahaney’s book “Humility: True Greatness.”
  • Realize that nothing would be a greater shame than for the highlighting of your competence to be the undoing of your character.

    In Christ Our King, Alex & Brett Harris

What do you think about John Tyler Hammons?

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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • That is a great encouragement! I especially love the letter you guys wrote… that is great advice for all of us. Thanks for your steadfast encouragement.

  • He said he’s just a super-normal teenager. That’s really encouraging for me, given the fact that I certainly fall under that category. With God’s strength, we can do all things. Great reminder, and I will be praying for John Hammons!

  • Just checking, did you really mean to write that Mr. Hammons will only receive one dollar a year? You said, “In return Hammons will receive an annual salary of $1 and office space.”

    Thank you for the last two posts. They have been an encouragement to me. I honestly don’t think I will be involved in politics, but I have great respect for people who take up the challenge and do hard things in that realm of our society.

    Your friend,

  • I think it is awesome and I am so glad for the amazing oppurtunity John Hammons has. He is young, bright, smart and appears to love the Lord. There is no better way to be a light then amidst the people you see in your community, and being the leader of such a place is an honor. This is exciting and some results of the amazing revolution the Rebelution and the Word of God stress upon the young people of the world!

    DO HARD THINGS is really great! Thanks for the truths. I already see them at work in my brother and sister.

    In Him,

  • That is really cool to think that our future government could be (young) people who really apply 1 Timothy 4:12 — I mean, wouldn’t that be amazing? I was just reading the other day about praying for our leaders. I fear that I have not done that as much as I should — as far as politics. That is one thing that I determine to commit myself to — and would like to encourage others to, as well. And we need to pray for the righteous and unrighteous alike — the righteous can become corrupt and need to be upheld and protected by our prayers and the unrighteous need to be put under God’s Authority and be either redeemed and transformed or removed. WE need to make this a righteous country — all of us, great and small in the scheme of things. If we work together, it’s possible. I’m talking about America, but really, wherever we live, we need to take it back for God.

    Also, that advice is really, honestly, truly great! Way to go in challenging each other for God’s Glory! Keep it up. I totally wanted to quote some of the points — but then I kept reading and realized that would be all of them. That’s the way anything well-written and God glorifying really should be — all necessary, all good, and applicable to us all. I’m trying to think of another way to say, “Way to go!” but I can’t. Anyway, you surpassed my expectations, even for The Rebelution, in not praising or being a fan, but rather edifying and truly glorifying God and guiding all glory to Him. I know you couldn’t do it alone because it is so good and so what it should be so it causes me to look to Him, thankful for His Work in your lives, and praise Him. Way to go — way to fix your eyes (and thus ours) on Him. I’m going to write down the points on the back of the journal I write notes for my books in and I’m going to ask God to help me in those areas (in case I ever get published — I’m kidding). I honestly wasn’t looking forward to a post on someone involved with politics, but this was different — in a great way.
    May God richly bless you!

  • I think that the true test of Hammons’ character is not what he says to crowds, not how he publicly fights wrong, and not even what he does in office… but how he chooses to spend that dollar a year. So many celebrities and potential role models get corrupted by money. I hope he has the kind of strength to stand his ground amidst that kind of test.

  • That is one guy who has Jesus as his main focus. Working at a job like that for $1 a year (I also thought you missed a few zeros), he has tremendous faith.

  • I would vote for a mayor who only wanted $1 a year too! But really, this is amazing, a great story of determination and great work ethic we would all do well to emulate.

  • Wow. Essentially unpaid is right! But I suppose that’s really what doing hard things is all about. It isn’t the money, the recognition, or anything like that: It’s for God and His glory!

  • I am encouraged! I truly believe that my generation CAN take a stand and CHANGE THE WORLD for Christ!

    It’s really neat to see someone like John Tyler Hammons out there doing big, hard, things… But we also need to remember all the little hard things it took to get there.

    I look forward to seeing this generation be “faithful in the little things”, and to see the great things that will one come of it!


  • This post (as well as the one before it) is so encouraging. It is amazing what God can do in the lives of people who are willing to be used by Him. 🙂

  • This is great, but how does he make a living? When it comes to financial independence, it certainly doesn’t seem particularly wise, especially as a first job. Does he live with his family?

    On the other hand, it would certainly look excellent on a resume and help immensely with getting a paying job in the future!

  • Ah! I hit the button too fast– (continuing…)

    It’s great though that an ambitious young Christian is working hard and is eager to make a difference in the world.

  • These stories are inspiring – thanks for keeping us updated on what’s going on with teens around the world. Praise God for those making a difference! It’s neat, because I have a cousin who lives in Muskogee. =)

  • I am excited to see our society blessed by such a fine young man. Today, so many of the morals and standards that we were taught, have gone by the way-side. (I’m 61) I thank God for you and all the other young people who have stood, sometines alone, for the good of all. May you always stay true to yourself and God.

  • Wow! Reminds me of another article I read on the Boundless website (written by the Harris brothers) about young men (our forefathers) doing spectacular things at a very young age. The only thing that keeps us from accomplishing great things for God is a lack of faith and a hindering sense of mediocrity. The article link to which I was referring should be attached to this post.

  • Wow, that’s great! I love hearing about people who are doing big hard things! Makes me keep thinking about if God’s calling me to anything big.

  • My first impression was, “Wow that’s crazy!” But after thinking about it, why couldn’t teens become political figures? I think this is a prime example of God calling anyone to do anything…truly a real-life Jeremiah moment.

  • Thanks for the encouragement. Anything is possible with God as your focus and hard work as your plan of action 🙂 “Teens” can rise above average any way.

  • Wow…… nobody really thinks teenagers are capable of doing hard things such as this. We are ” just abunch of kids who don’t know what to do with ourslves” But lo and behold some of us are the exact opposite, and we are proving it to everyone! I would like to thank Alex, Bret, John and all of the others for standing out in society, it really encourages me to fufill my dream, becoming an EMT-Paramedic by nineteen only two more years! Thanks so much! It sounds like John is a very confident and close to God person!

  • Reading these stories reminds me of King Josiah in 2 (?) Kings. In spite of the evil lives of his father and grandfather before him, it said that he followed the ways of the Lord from a young age (eight years old, I think). He became king at the age of 16, and led Israel in a nationwide revival at the age of 20. Josiah obeyed, with no reservations, putting no limitations on what God could accomplish, turning the faces of his people toward the Lord. His story always blesses and challenges me.

  • This article was really cool to read because my brother, my best friend, and my best friend’s two older sisters all went to college in Hillsdale. I even spent a weekend in April of last year visiting my friend for her birthday up in Hillsdale and it is slightly insane to think that the mayor of her town is only two years older than her.

  • Great job, Mr. Hammons. I too am a 19 year-old and I’ve been blessed with opportunities to “do hard things” in the arena of public policy (currently I’m the Deputy Communications Director of a congressional campaign in a hotly contested Indiana district) and it is a privilage and an honor to represent Christ in a way that challenges the thinking of modern society.

    Keep up the good work, stay humble and stay faithful.

  • I am stunned! I don’t live terribly far from Muskogee, and I never heard of him being mayor. I wish I’d known sooner. It was so wonderful to realize that teens – especially in our state, but anywhere – are doing such amazing stuff. It made me think of the founding fathers, and I believe many of them would have been proud. Thanks for keeping us informed about teens doing wonderful things like this.

  • I just heard about the rebelution today. I didn’t even know it was possible to be elected mayor at 19! This is all so crazy! But exactly what I have been thinking. You just put into words and deeds what I can only partially think up. Insane!

  • I am new to the rebelution and I guess it works pretty well. I didn’t even know you could be a mayor at 19! I live pretty far from Hillsdale, so I have never heard of him until now..
    It is amazing seeing people start doing things at a young age… It is SO hard to meet your full expectaions since society has set such a low standard for us teens. I am in band and I play trumpet, I got an award for best 7th grade band member, and I didn’t really do much, I just played my instrument and turned in practice records.. So for John Tyler to become mayor, he has gone a long way
    Carl Ivey

  • Hey!! I found Rebulition today for 2nd time, i found it long ago, then got busy, but i was soo glad to read some of it today, I found it through a link from YLCF(Young Ladies Christian Fellowship)…it’s so nice and refreshing to know that young teens and older teens are doing so much for God and for this wonderful country. I am humbled and amazed that a 19 year old John Tyler Hammons is a mayor…i’m not amazed that much by the age because i always believed that young people can make a difference, I am just amazed that John Tyler is willing to be mayor for practically free.
    To stand for our country and for God without being paid but $1 is a testament and brings glory to God. John Tyler is amazing young man. He seems to be God fearing man, and he will make that difference, I just know it :))

    I am actually not a teen i’m 29…but i still enjoy this web site immensely, i’ll be back sometime 🙂
    And thank you Brett & Alex for creating this beautiful web site for teens, and thank you for standing for Christ and being rooted in God’s word.
    You both are amazing!
    thank you again!

    Keep up the good work Brett & Alex!

    Take care! God bless you always!
    To God be all glory!
    Jane K.

  • The Lord has great things in store for all those who love Him! I am so overwhelmed with this whole idea! I am praising God for his persistance in the hearts of those who are seeking his will for their lives! I commend him for his desire to follow even when the road is one less traveled by! I do however encorage Him to continue to do so while faced with the fires of this society! God will work in and through Him of that i am confident! i pray he knows he is being lifted in prayer and i look forward to what God has in mind for his title! praise His Holy Name!

  • keep up the nice work on the blog. Do like it! :p Could maybe use some more updates more often, but i am quite sure you got some more or better things to do like we all do. =)

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →