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He’s 19. Get over it.
Hard work helped Republican hopeful Ivan Hood, and he thinks it can help Fort Wayne, too
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
“Everyone is talking about what they don’t have and what they don’t got,” says Ivan Hood, the 19-year-old candidate for the Republican nomination for Mayor of Fort Wayne. “People should stop complaining and just go out and try to get it.”
Hood is explaining his general philosophy, the reason he opened his own business right out of high school, and why the Republican party appeals to him. Independence, self-reliance, fiscal responsibility and hard work are very important to Hood, and though these are familiar philosophical cornerstones for many a conservative candidate for public office, coming from Hood they carry a certain authority, despite his youth — he’s been taking care of himself since he was 15.
“When I was a baby, I was abandoned,” Hood says. “My mother had a very bad drug addiction.” He lived with his grandmother until she died when he was 15. Hood then went to live with an aunt, but things didn’t work out. “Her and her husband really didn’t want me,” he says. “They thought I was sleeping, and he would say ‘I don’t want him here. I gotta feed him…’ He always had something smart to say to me. I wasn’t going to stay somewhere I wasn’t wanted. So I left.”
“I was sleeping in cars, abandoned houses,” he continues. But he had a job, and he kept going to school while he was working 40+ hours a week. Eventually, he moved in with an older friend, and became a manager at a clothing store in Glenbrook. “I’m not going to say I was the best student. I gave it my all, but it was very hard, working 40+ hours a week and going to school. I’d be at work 3:30 everyday after school, then I’d work the weekends open to close.”
He took a month off after graduating Northside in 2006, and then opened his own kiosk in Glenbrook — What’s Happening Fashions — with money he had saved from his previous jobs. And this past winter, he filed to run for the Republican nomination for mayor.
Unless you count class president, Hood doesn’t have any experience in politics (where would he have found the time?). “I didn’t consider city council,” Hood says. “The only way I can make a difference is by going after the main spot, the big spot. I want to be mayor to make the big changes in our community. People can make suggestions, but it takes the mayor to really try to make the difference.”
Through all his troubles, Hood kept himself focused and on track by concentrating on work and school, so it probably comes as no surprise that he sees employment and education as the two biggest problems facing Fort Wayne right now. “I hate to say this, but Fort Wayne will never be a factory city again,” he says. “So, we’ve got to come up with something, some kind of alternative, to keep people in our city. When people graduate, they think ‘Why come back to Fort Wayne when I got this degree, and they’re not going to pay me enough? I can make more money somewhere else.’”
“I want to come up with a program to help people who have kids stay in school,” he adds. “A lot of them, they don’t go to school, because they get on welfare and get too comfortable. Once they get on that, they think they got it made, and they don’t understand that little money is not going to last. Just because you had a baby, don’t let that stop you.”
And in keeping with the general attitude that work and employment can go a long way to curing most social ills, he also favors a job program for felons. “By me being a Christian, I believe Jesus died on the cross for our sins,” he says. “We are forgiven for our sins. They (felons) made a mistake, and we need to forgive them. We need some kind of way to help them get jobs, and that’ll help lower our crime rate.”
Hood’s position on some of the hot button local issues of the day — the Harrison Square project in particular — have found favor with a lot of potential voters. He is all for downtown development, and would love to see lots of retail and restaurants downtown, but the money for that needs to come from private investors. Curiously, he gives the Richard administration a “thumbs up” for the Renaissance Pointe project, but thinks the current mayor is pushing a little too hard for Harrison Square. “I have asked thousands of people about Harrison Square, and the majority of them are not for it,” Hood says. “(Mayor Richard) is pushing it too hard, and he’s not running again. He’s leaving it in the hands of another man. If I am elected mayor and it’s in there, then I’ve got to deal with it. If not… that’s even better.”
When Hood first filed as a candidate, most of the attention he received focused on his age. Hood says it annoyed him at first, but thinks people have gotten past that now. “Once they talk to me and see that I’m serious, they get past that. I think that’s no longer a problem. Fort Wayne is ready for a change. We’ve never had a 19-year-old mayor.”
“I know I’m the underdog, but I really do believe I have a chance. I’m in this to win.”
And if he doesn’t win the primary in May… Hood won’t rule out another run at local government. Then again, he won’t commit to it either. He will say he plans to take business classes to build on his experience as a small business owner. “Win or lose, I’m still going to be a big part of this community,” he says. “I’m still going to make sure my voice is heard.”