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Calvin Young III during an interview at The AFRO. (Photo Credit: A.R. Ward)

Mayoral candidate Calvin Young III believes that he has what it takes to unify Baltimore. During a sit-down interview with The Afro, the 27-year-old engineer and Harvard grad said that the city is at a crossroads, and the new energy he would bring to the job might be just what the city needs.

“Optimism is the first thing that is required for anything to happen because when you have a situation that is as serious as what we have, you have to be confident in your leadership to lead you toward whatever the right thing is,” he said.

“That’s what we don’t have right now. And that’s what, if you look at some of the folks who are running for mayor, I don’t believe we will be able to have.”

Young said it’s easy to bash current mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who announced she is not seeking reelection, but the problems that plague the city were around long before she took office.

“The problems of Baltimore City are systemic,” he said “They’ve been here for decades.”

“Those issues were around when Sheila Dixon was mayor, they were around when Martin O’Malley was mayor. Each of these mayors has tried their best at solving some of these issues, but we still find ourselves where we are today.” In 2014 Baltimore had 211 homicides. As of Sept. 16 there have been 236 in 2015..

Young said that he believes he can change the tone of the city – because of who he is and what he represents.

“I’m running to provide a counterpoint to what we’ve heard about our city for decades – crime, drugs, homicides – that does not have to be what Baltimore is about moving forward.”

A Baltimore native, Young was raised by a single mother. He is a Baltimore Polytechnic Institute graduate who served as a representative on the Baltimore City Youth Commission as a teen.

He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from New York University and earned his master of business administration degree from Harvard University.

Young has never held public office, but points to his work as a jet engine engineer and as National Chairperson for the National Society of Black Engineers, as proof of his ability to manage and to lead.

Young said that one of his main priorities as mayor would be improving community-police relations by emphasizing something he calls “process control.”

“In order for the police department to gain trust with the community it requires process control within the police department. What that looks like is making sure that any individual who works for the police department follows processes and procedures that are set out for them to do.”

He says that his engineer’s brain is perfect for the task.

Another priority, he said, would be eliminating lead from city homes.

“One thing I’ll guarantee as mayor is to eliminate lead in homes in the city. There should be no lead paint anywhere. If it requires walking in everybody’s house who says they have lead and doing an assessment and then sending somebody in to get rid of the lead then we’ll do that.

Education is another priority – specifically the fields of science, technology, engineering and math commonly known as STEM.

“The focus for me is going to be on STEM education because of the economic impact that it would have on young people,” Young said.

“I want to make sure that every young person who wants to be an engineer or scientist in Baltimore knows what that’s about. There’s nobody better at that than me, I’ve been doing it for 10 years with the National Society of Black Engineers.”

He said that he identifies with the Black Lives Matter protestors who have been active even before Freddie Gray’s death. As mayor, he said, he’d work to unify all sides of the issue.

“I identify with making Baltimore a better place for people who are like me. I think the black lives mater movement feels the same, specifically here in Baltimore.”

“They are a group of advocates. They are super-required for any movement to start. I want to play the roll of the innovator, someone who can come with solutions…but also a collaborator, somebody who is coming in with a fresh set of eyes who can listen to everybody and find a silver lining that helps us all move forward together.”

Young also reflected on the Rawlings-Blake’s decision to step down. The announcement was made just a short while before his Afro interview.

“Her decision seems to be very much focused on her ability to support the city as mayor today, and her desire to want to do that in the fullest capacity. I think that is something that we should admire and appreciate and commend her for.”