Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Political Notebook: State Center trustee Payne may be youngest elected Fresno Co. African American

Last week, Eric Payne was sworn in as one of two new trustees on the State Center Community College board — at age 28.

For one, Payne is young. He’s 28.

Twentysomethings aren’t often elected to office. One notable exception is Tulare Republican Devin Nunes, who was barely 29 when he was elected to Congress in 2002.

But Payne may actually be the youngest African American elected to office in Fresno County.

“I can’t think of anybody else,” said outgoing Fresno County Supervisor Susan Anderson, who served as county clerk for a decade starting in 1990.

Other long-time political watchers couldn’t recall any African American younger than Payne being elected. But nobody could say with absolute certainty that Payne was the youngest.

Payne, who replaced long-time trustee Willie Smith, who decided not to seek reelection, said he “ran because I live in southwest Fresno and I wanted to elevate the platform of post secondary education within my community.”

Anderson, who served as a mentor to Payne through the Rotary Club, predicts big things for him. He currently works as a consultant for a non-profit.

“For somebody under 30 to get elected is pretty amazing,” she said. “He walked a lot of precincts.”

Anderson thinks this is the start of what could be a promising political career, should Payne choose that route.

“I think he is a young man to watch,” she said.

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