A 19-year-old Northeastern student is running to be the youngest mayor in Massachusetts history

Omar Mohuddin stands at the entrance of the Woburn Public Library.
Northeastern student Omar Mohuddin, who studies business administration and finance, is running to be mayor of Woburn, poses for a portrait on April 4, 2023. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Omar Mohuddin is in constant motion. 

When he’s not taking classes at Northeastern University, the freshman business administration student is working part-time at Reading Cooperative Bank. When he’s not working at the bank, he’s doing homework. And when he’s not doing homework, he’s working on his most ambitious goal: running for mayor of Woburn, Massachusetts.

Mohuddin announced his campaign in March, pitting himself against Scott Galvin, the incumbent mayor who is currently serving his sixth term in office, and Mike Concannon, a former state police major. If Mohuddin, 19, were to win in November, it would make him the youngest mayor in Massachusetts history.

But Mohuddin, a lifelong Woburn resident who still lives in the city with his mother, a Somalian immigrant, and his brothers, hopes that voters will see beyond his age and recognize his passion, experience and investment in changing his community for the better.

“My campaign is going to be something where I come in and I change Woburn, win or lose,” Mohuddin says. “I don’t think that it should be a bad thing that I’m young. Everyone should be considered for what they are, who they are and what they’re doing rather than just the number that defines their age.”

Headshot of Omar Mohuddin.
Although he is currently attending Northeastern University as a freshman, Omar Mohuddin, who studies business administration and finance, still lives in Woburn, where he is now running for mayor. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Ambition has never been an issue for Mohuddin. He graduated from Woburn Memorial High School in 2022, after serving as class president for two years. During his upperclassman years, Mohuddin took courses at North Shore Community College, putting him on an accelerated track at Northeastern. 

But when he saw 18-year-old Jaylen Smith win the mayoral race in Earle, Arkansas last year, Mohuddin was inspired to take the leap into politics. He aims to bring his banking experience, which he says would aid him in working on the city’s fiscal year budget, and his deep knowledge of Woburn Public Schools to city hall. 

The primary focus of Mohuddin’s campaign is on Woburn’s public school system and the city’s first responders. After a recent teachers’ strike that resulted in a five-day school closure, Woburn teachers and paraprofessionals were able to secure double digit pay increases and other benefits, like smaller class sizes. But Mohuddin says more work needs to be done.

“We should be a well-oiled machine with the city employees, teachers and everyone across the board because at the end of the day almost every single person that works for the city and lives in the city has had an impact on their life from educators,” Mohuddin says.

Through new professional development opportunities and diversity, equity and inclusion training for teachers, along with increased staffing and equipment among the city first responders, Mohuddin says the city can ensure its most dedicated public servants have what they need “to do their job properly.”

Mohuddin is also bringing the lessons he’s learned at Northeastern to his campaign. Mohuddin is one of the first generation students involved in the Hajim Scholars Program, which is provided by the D’Amore McKim School of Business. As part of that program, Mohuddin and his fellow Hajim Scholars have had the opportunity to network with Northeastern alumni working at the highest levels of business, and those conversations have informed his campaign.

The Northeastern freshman is also currently discussing ways that, should he win, the first part of his mayoral term in spring 2024 could count as a co-op.

More than anything, Mohuddin wants to make a difference in his community and inspire others to want to do the same. It’s why his campaign strategy is focused almost exclusively on community engagement and community-focused events.

“That’s where I might be able to win because you can’t really fake empathy,” Mohuddin says. “I’m coming in as a listener, as someone who really cares, and I’m not as experienced as [Galvin], which I think is a benefit of mine. I’m not a hardened politician.”

“That might not win someone’s vote, but it still lets me teach, lead and engage, which is what I’m setting out to do,” he adds. “I don’t need the title of mayor to do that, but I think the pathway to mayor is a nice opportunity to allow me that voice.”

In that way, he’s already found some success. 

Heather Hauck, Northeastern’s director of student engagement, affinity and inclusion, senior co-op coordinator and founder and director of the Hajim Scholars Program, says Mohuddin’s drive and commitment to serving his community have set an example for not just students at the university, but faculty and staff as well.

“We talk so much about impacting policy and moving institutions and systems, and here he is an example of a person who is very passionate about impacting his community for the better,” Hauck says. “He’s encouraging and inspiring people to get involved and to have some optimism that we might have some issues, but we’re not broken.”

Just like Smith’s victory in Arkansas inspired him to hit the campaign trail, his campaign has already inspired other young people to get involved. His team is made up of several Northeastern students, many of whom he met through the university’s Summer Bridge Scholars Program, which brings together first-year students from historically underrepresented groups at the university. 

“He’s creating that opportunity, that new resumé builder, for folks, and I think that’s something that’s really unique,” says Josiehanna Colon, Mohuddin’s campaign manager and a first year criminal justice and human services student at Northeastern. 

Having served for three years on the Boston Student Advisory Council, Colon is used to young people being “tokenized” in politics. Mohuddin says his campaign is a chance to give young people a voice in the political process and show them that they can make a difference, at a time when it’s never been more clear how powerful young voters can be.

“At the end of the day if you’re 18, you have the same voting rights as someone who’s much older,” Mohuddin says. “Not only that, you can also run. You might not win, I might not win, but now we’re starting to leave footsteps, saying, ‘We can do this. Others can follow behind me.’”

Cody Mello-Klein is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at c.mello-klein@northeastern.edu. Follow him on Twitter @Proelectioneer.