The 35U began with a vision to inspire the leaders of tomorrow by telling them about the leaders of today. With millions of people involved in government, education, business and community service across the country, it sometimes may be hard for the 35U to connect to leaders individually simply due to an age barrier. The 35U to us is any young adult from the ages of 18-35 in this country. These individuals have a voice – they can vote, serve, and most importantly, they can make a difference for future generations.

Today’s Q&A feature is Marita Garrett, Mayor of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. Marita was elected Mayor of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania in November of 2017. At 31 years old, this election made her the youngest Mayor in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania’s history. In 2017, Marita founded Civically, Inc, a non-profit that focuses on furthering development within the community by offering financial and basic literacy skills, promoting civic and community engagement to instill self-reliance, while addressing the immediate needs of the economically disadvantaged. She earned a Masters in Psychology from Chatham University. Marita has been awarded the Alzheimer’s Association-Greater PA Chapter’s Community Outreach Volunteer of the Year” and named “Rising African American Leader” by the African American Council at the University of Pittsburgh. Twice, she has been featured in the “40 Under 40 List” by Pittsburgh Magazine and New Pittsburgh Courier. Marita is an inspiration to the youth in Pennsylvania that want to get involved in government and public service. We caught up with Marita to find out what leadership means to her and what advice she would give to the next generation of leaders.

Why did you choose this career path?

This may sound cliché, but this path chose me. My background is in community outreach and engagement, so when I became aware that our elected officials weren’t representing our best interest then I decided to step up to be the change our community deserved.

Who inspired you to get involved?

My Mother has been an inspiration. Not just in politics, but throughout my whole life, I was raised with a social responsibility to always give back through volunteering and exercise my duty to vote.

How do you define a leader?

An effective leader is one who has a succession plan and brings others on their journey with them. True leaders inspire and motivate.

What projects are you currently involved with in the community that engages the next generation of leaders?

One of the initiatives I started to promote community and civic engagement is called Wilkinsburg Community Conversations. It works to connect and empower residents to work together to improve their neighborhoods; also, to ensure their voices are heard in the legislative making process. Additionally, I founded the Partnership for Positive Progress Political Action Committee (PP4P-PAC) in 2016 to increase civic and social engagement initiatives through supporting progressive candidates. One of the main objectives in creating this PAC was to create a pipeline of those running for office, specifically local, municipal elections..

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders who want to get involved?

Do not wait your turn! If you feel you would be the best and qualified candidate, step up and run. If you’re not planning to run for office, that’s fine too, either make sure you’re leaving a positive impact on your community in some capacity.