“It ain’t going to come,” he said.

In any case, in his view, Earle did not need one. “We’ve got everything you can think of that Walmart’s got,” Mr. Young said of the vast inventory in his store, which includes chips, snack cakes and soft drinks, but also T-bone steaks, crab legs and a diverse selection of hair weaves.

“He says he’s going to clean up the city, so we’ll see what happens,” Mr. Young said of Mr. Smith. “Everybody’s eyes are on him.”

Billy Joe Murray, the retired basketball coach at Earle High School, said that the city was in dire need of improvements. For him, the drainage system was the most pressing issue. “Every time it rains, I’m underwater,” he said as he swatted away sweat bees on his front porch.

“Everybody leaves Earle,” Mr. Murray, 68, said. “People want to move up in life, and Earle is probably at its lowest.”

He believed in Mr. Smith, though. “I taught his mama, I know his daddy,” Mr. Murray said. “He may look young, but he’s got his head on right.”

Mr. Smith, who has two older brothers and a twin, Jayden, has “been old since he was little,” his mother, Sonya Perkins, said. Coach Murray made him the manager of the basketball team at Earle High, and Mr. Smith once had aspirations of becoming a state trooper. But his plans shifted after he became involved in student government.

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