By Erin Chesnut
“A degree is just one example of the many things UT Martin gave to me while I was here,” says Jake Bynum, mayor of Weakley County.
“I tell people all the time that the things I learned and took away from this university weren’t necessarily the things I learned inside the classroom,” says Bynum (Martin ’06). “The obvious things like time management and how to deal with people … those sorts of things are things you learn everywhere. What was particularly great about the UT Martin setting was that it’s a community unto itself.”
Bynum’s time at UT Martin not only earned him a degree in business administration; it instilled in him a sense of place and community that helps him influence the lives of Weakley County residents every day as the youngest mayor in county history.
Bynum, who won the Weakley County mayor’s seat at the age of 30, grew up in Dresden and worked in finance before entering the local political scene.
“Public service is something I’ve always been interested in. I’ve always thought I would be in some form of politics somewhere at the end of the day,” he says. “We saw this opportunity to really be a part of the community and make it a better place–to make it a place where my kids could grow up and live and work, as well.”
He is currently the youngest county mayor statewide, but he doesn’t let that bother him. In fact, he considers his youth to be a factor in much of his success.
“I think people saw me as being young and energetic and aggressive and able to go out there and give it my all every single day,” he says.
Bynum has served on a dozen local boards and committees and helped begin the Weakley County Backpack Program through the local Rotary Club. What started as a service to feed 17 elementary school children over the weekend has grown into a county-wide institution serving 200-250 school children grades K-12.
“It (the program) is something I hold extremely dear as something that could potentially be a legacy, not only for me but for all those who were involved in the beginning stages. … We’re sending food home every single week to those students who we feel don’t have food in their house whatsoever over the weekend,” Bynum explains. “I feel we are really making a difference in the lives of our school children.”
As a UT Martin alum, he also has a firsthand understanding of the role the university plays in the local community. Bynum received a bachelor’s degree in 2006 and is a 2013 graduate of the UT Martin WestStar Leadership Program.
“I think the university as a whole has such a huge impact on the Weakley County community,” he says. “I am constantly vigilant to make sure we do everything we can to support an institution that is the catalyst for advancement and progress in our community.”
Jake Bynum’s years at UT Martin may have earned him a diploma, but they also gave him the knowledge, network and opportunity to serve in public office. As Weakley County mayor, he is leaving a positive mark on his community and the institutions within it, including his alma mater.