At age 24, Brandaun Dean became the youngest mayor in the State of Alabama and the youngest African American municipal government chief in the nation when he was elected mayor of his hometown, Brighton, Alabama on August 23, 2016. Dean entered Howard University as an undergraduate in 2010, during his career as an undergraduate he displayed his commitment to public service through his leadership of the Howard University College Democrats, the Howard University Student Association (HUSA), and the HU delegation to the Harvard University Kennedy School Black Policy Conference. While studying in the nation’s capital Dean served as an intern on the staffs of Alabama Congressman Artur Davis and Congresswoman Terri Sewell. After leaving Howard University in 2014 Dean joined the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in Jefferson County, Alabama where he successfully organized teachers in one of the state’s lowest performing high schools to replace the district’s superintendent and the school’s principal citing ethics and performance issues.
As Mayor of Brighton, Dean served as CEO of a $2.3 million enterprise with supervision of five appointed officers; proposing and passing legislation to decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana, providing sanctuary to immigrant families, increasing city workers pay to $15 per hour, funding the reopening of the city’s only community center; and clearing public lands neglected by failed public works efforts for more than twenty years.
Dean also appointed the most diverse cohort of officers in the city’s history; sought the intervention of local county law enforcement and prosecutors to review practices of an ethically challenged City police department; initiated cost-savings and efficiency improvement efforts to provide greater quality of public safety and public works services to 2,900 citizens. Throughout his career Dean has been a champion for public education reform, criminal justice reform, clean energy, and LGBTQ equality.
Dean’s tenure as mayor was marked by bold stances on national issues but locally, despite little cooperation from the city council, he saved employee health insurance by making a surprise appearance at a five-member insurance board hearing where he illustrated the city’s hardships but willingness to cooperate with demands in order to avoid loss of coverage. By working with the City’s attorney Dean was also able to draft and pass a resolution that automated payment of the City’s waste management contract, in order to avoid any future interruptions in service.
Dean’s aggressive approach to governing left him at odds with many in the old guard of Jefferson County’s local politics. In his first six months in office Dean’s car was vandalized, police attempted but failed to illegally search the home he shared with his grandmother, and he was reported to the Alabama Ethics Commission for illegal use of a police car after using the vehicle to attend a Global Leadership conference while repairs to his vandalized personal automobile were made.
After a year-long court battle with former appointments to remove Mayor Dean from office a Circuit Court ordered a runoff election between Dean and former Mayor Eddie Cooper. The court stated that they had not seen evidence of “voter fraud” as formerly alleged by Dean’s opponents. Dean had received nearly three times as many votes as Cooper but due to failures to comply with specifics of Alabama’s voting laws Dean was determined by the court to be six votes shy of the requisite number of votes required to avoid a runoff. Dean declined to enter the runoff concerned that the city’s financial woes, the council’s waning ethics, and voting rights challenges presented by the ruling were issues he could address more effectively outside of the Office of Mayor.
Since leaving office Brandaun Dean has continued researching and designing a global curriculum on social justice, expanded advocacy for marijuana decriminalization by working with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker on a resolution that would legalize use nationally, joined the national campaign fundraising network for California Senator Kamala Harris, and supported the elections of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Alabama Senator Doug Jones. In July of 2017, he was appointed to the Executive Board of the Dream Forever Foundation headed by Jameis Winton of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.