Heather McTeer, 35, mayor of Greenville, Mississippi
Résumé: McTeer grew up at voting rallies with her activist parents, a civil-rights attorney and a teacher. In 2003, at 27, she was elected mayor of her hometown. She's since erased Greenville's $4 million deficit and won $3 million to purify the town's notorious brown water. In December, she'll run for Congress, representing Mississippi's second district.
Background Check: "When I returned to Greenville after law school, there was a leadership vacuum. The streets hadn't been redone in years! I was an attorney like my dad, and when people suggested I run for mayor, he cross-examined me. Our population was 68 percent African-American, but we'd never had a black or female mayor. I decided just because it hadn't been done didn't mean it couldn't be."
Big Break: "The highlight of election day was seeing little old black ladies with walkers voting. For them to elect someone who looked like them was powerful."
Armed and Dangerous: "I've dealt with racism and sexism, even death and rape threats, in office. Once, I came to city hall to find little notes with pictures of guns scattered everywhere. I wasn't intimidated, but I do take precautions I carry a Glock, and I'm trained to fire it."