COMPTON (CBSLA.com) — She’s young, she’s bright and she’s ambitious.
Compton’s new mayor Aja Brown is making headlines, most recently in an article in fashion bible Vogue magazine, for her plans to revitalize a city plagued by corruption and debt.
The 31-year-old University of Southern California grad earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in urban planning and economic development and went on to spend 10 years serving on planning commissions for several Southland cities, including a prestigious post in Pasadena.
Four years ago, Brown became a resident of Compton and joined a local church. She founded the nonprofit foundation Urban Vision Community Development Corporation, with the goal of bringing education programs, scholarships, and small-business loans to the area. It’s all part of her vision for developing the city into a place where businesses thrive and residents feel secure.
“I think people around the world identify Compton with gangster rap. My whole life I’ve always been the underdog, so I believe that Compton is going to be a great city,” Brown said. “I envision Compton Boulevard being a bustling central business district once again: having wider sidewalks, being well-lit and having small businesses opening up.”
Mayor Brown has high hopes for the South L.A. city, a place that holds a tragic memory for her family. Years ago, her great-grandmother was brutally killed in a rape and robbery at her Compton home. The killer was never found. The incident prompted Brown’s mother to leave the city.
“I thought it would be a great way to turn my family’s negative connotation with Compton into something positive, so it was also great for me after I bought my home here to have my mom come back here and really see the changes.”
Her mother was by her side this July when Brown was sworn into office. She handily beat 11 other candidates, including then-Mayor Eric Perrodin and former Compton Mayor Omar Bradley, whose conviction on corruption charges was overturned last year.
Brown is setting all sorts of records: She’s Compton’s youngest mayor and the second woman ever to serve in the position, the first being Doris Davis four decades ago. She’s also the first city official to grace the pages of Vogue, which portrays Brown as transforming the streets of Compton. She’s also been featured in Essence magazine and will soon appear in the Wall Street Journal.
“My focus is being on the best mayor I can be. I think that when you do a great job other opportunities naturally come about. But I’m really focused on being a great mayor, I think our city deserve it,” Brown said.
When Brown took office the city, once on the brink of insolvency, was $40 million in debt. Today she says the debit is half that amount.