Ryan Paisley, Town Councilman

We in bluegrass all know Ryan Paisley as the talented and unassuming mandolinist with Danny Paisley & The Southern Grass. He’s also the son of the boss man, and the third generation heir apparent to the Paisley family music legacy.

But around home in Clayton, Delaware, they call him Mr. Councilman.

That’s right… 22 year old Ryan Paisley is a newly-elected member of the Town Council in Clayton, chosen in an April 26 election among several contenders. While records don’t exist all the way back to when the town was founded in 1860, municipal leaders feel certain that he is the youngest ever voted in to this position.

When we spoke earlier today, Paisley was still in some degree of disbelief, even though he is to be sworn in next Monday.

“I really didn’t think I would win, running against some experienced candidates, so I tried to knock on every door I could.

I’m blown away by being elected. I was worried that voters might think I was too young. I had a lot of help from people I know in bluegrass who had experience in politics, and they were a big help.

You can use social media all you want, but in a local race, it really is about meeting and talking to people face to face.”

He tells us that he has always planned to become involved in politics, which he studies as closely as he does bluegrass and mandolin music.

“Politics is something I have always been fascinated by. I watch C-SPAN2 every day, and have it on in the background while I’m doing homework, or music work, or just practicing. During the pandemic, when music was shut down, I figured it was time to start looking into it seriously.

I’m studying Law, Public Policy, and Political Science at Wilmington University. It’s only about 40 minutes away, but all of my classes so far have been online. They have a really large online presence, which allows you to make connections from all over. I knew that I would go to college after high school, but I also wanted to dedicate a couple of years to music first. There was never any doubt that I would study politics, and I started in the summer semester last year.”

Clayton is a community of 3,800 in eastern Delaware, about 15 miles north of Dover, not far from the northern Virginia/Washington, DC region. Ryan told us that it was initially known as Smyrna Station, and grew up as a railroad town. These days it serves as a suburb of Dover, where many of the residents work.

But for Paisley, it is home.

“I was born in Clayton, and have lived here my whole life. Many people associate our family with Pennsylvania, but when my parents married, dad moved to Delaware where mom was from. After they divorced, he moved back to Pennsylvania. I spend a lot of time with them both.”

So what prompted a professional mandolin playing college student to run for public office?

“Many times the local level of government is what affects us the most. It’s really essential that we get involved, and I wanted to do my part.

I ran on the need for repair to our sewer system. We have sold our water supply, and are anticipating money from the infrastructure bill, so we have funding to look at that. I also want to tackle our deficit, which worries me a great deal.

Town leaders have been incredibly supportive of my election. It’s been very positive and I can’t thank them enough.”

And he already sounds like a Clayton booster.

“We are rated as the safest town in the state. That’s something we really want to maintain.”

Paisley says that he isn’t daunted by all he has to learn and prepare for as a Town Councilman.

“Town Council meets by charter on the 2nd Monday of every month, unless the Mayor calls a special meeting. There are also committee meetings during the month. We get materials ahead of the meetings. I am getting together with the Mayor later today about one issue for next month’s meeting.”

While he tells us that he does have ambitions to continue on in politics, right now he is focused mainly on being sworn in next week.

No doubt all the Paisley family is proud of this outstanding young man, already giving back to his community before even finishing his education.

“Dad is coming down, and he is looking forward to it.”

Many congratulations to Ryan Paisley, definitely someone to watch in the world of bluegrass music – and on the political scene!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.