Michael Tubbs grew up in one of the “rougher” parts of Stockton, California. His mother was a teenager when she gave birth to Tubbs, and for most of his life, Tubbs’s father was incarcerated. On paper, the deck was stacked against him, but today, Michael is better known as Mayor Tubbs.
The 26 year-old was elected mayor of Stockton in November with 70 percent of the vote. The first African American mayor of Stockton, Tubbs is now the chief executive of a city with one of the lowest literacy rates in the country – in 2011, Forbes called it America’s “most miserable city.”
Tubbs spoke to Chuck Todd about Stockton in the latest “1947: The Meet the Press Podcast.”
The young mayor ran for his first city council seat before he had graduated from college. He says his career path, which briefly took him to internships at Google and the White House, refocused after his cousin was murdered on Halloween in 2010.
“That’s when I said, ‘I have to go and do something. I have to be part of the solution. I can’t write papers about it. I can’t study about it. I have to be involved in some way.’”
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Despite its reputation, Tubbs said “growing up in Stockton wasn’t all doom and gloom.” In fact, “it was a community for smart, resilient people,” he said. Now that he’s mayor, it’s his mission to recreate his good fortune for other underprivileged residents of his hometown.
Tubbs says his family relied on a combination of government programs, high quality public schools, healthy eating habits and “church as a place of stability.” As a result, Tubbs believes the solution is “a mixture of family influence and community input.”
“Government can’t do everything,” he says, “but there is a role for government and smart policy, especially in equalizing opportunities for folks.”
Tubbs - who once told President Obama that he was “next” in line - is quickly sounding more and more like a professional politician. “California can’t be a great state until all parts of the state are great.”
Tubbs’s advice to young, aspiring politicians: Take more computer science classes and major in economics.
“So much of the world is digital,” he says. “I have ideas [to make government more efficient] but I don’t yet have the skills or the capacity to create them myself.”
And Tubbs is acutely aware of politics in nearby Sacramento. When Chuck Todd asked what he might have to say to Governor Jerry Brown, Tubbs had a list ready to go that included requests for a state university outpost and new employment services for former perpetrators of violent crime.
He would also like to see his city play a role in choosing the next governor, offering to play host to a “Stockton primary” debate.
1947 is a podcast from NBC News, featuring Chuck Todd, Moderator of "Meet the Press." 1947 features in-depth conversations with notable figures to go beyond politics. You can download it from iTunes here.