Clint Eastwood: The Mayor of Carmel

A Look at Clint's Life in the Political Arena; 1986-88

Clint after winning the election in 1986On January 30th, 1986, a local Carmel, California newspaper first announced the news: Clint Eastwood was running for mayor -- salary, $200 a month!

Like Dirty Harry, he was fighting bureaucracy, waging a war on bylaws in his adopted hometown of Carmel. His campaign certainly made the media's day but when he got a whopping 72% of the poll, even former President Reagan phoned with envious congratulations.

Clint insisted during his two year period as mayor that it was not the launch pad for larger political ambitions. His concern was strictly with Carmel. "We got rid of quite a lot of punitive attitudes on the council and helped people get things done," he claimed later. "We got things built -- beach walkways, a library annex which had been waiting 25 years, and so on. I approached it from a business point of view, not a political one."

The reason Clint entered the political arena in the first place was that he believed he was being disrespectfully treated by the little city's administration, and he was upset about it. Hassled with rules, regulations, and taxes regarding building permits and zoning laws, and tired of getting the runaround and going through endless miles of red tape with the city, Clint decided to fight back.

The breaking point was when the preservationist-dominated town council automatically rejected Clint's plans to build a small building in downtown Carmel that would have improved the surrounding area. Clint promptly sued the city winning an out-of-court settlement that permitted him to proceed with his building.

Campaign button It was this fight with city hall that got Clint thinking. It got him closer to the Carmel business community and led to discussions about challenging the incumbent mayor, Charlotte Townsend, who was then approaching the end of her second term. People started to edge him on and show early support if he considered to run against her.

He hired a campaign manager, and after early opinion polls about how people would feel if he ran looked positive, he filed the papers just hours before the deadline and launched his campaign.

His strategy was very basic: He never attacked Townsend directly, he gave no interviews to the national press, and stayed tightly involved in the community. He did almost no paid advertising -- just some buttons and bumper stickers. It was, all in all, one of the most tasteful campaigns in the history of modern American politics. He politely refused autographs when he was out on walking tours. His slogan was simple, "Bringing the Community Together," and in talks he stressed his desire to build bridges between the business community and the residential community. His strategy worked!

Being sworn into office in 1986

On April 8th, 1986, with twice the voter turn out showing up, Clint got a whopping 72.5 % of the vote. To show that there was no hard feelings, a week later at his inaugural ceremony, he gave Townsend and two of her close allies some potted redwood seedlings as reconciliatory gifts.

For his two year term in office, Clint fulfilled to his own satisfaction, all his major campaign promises. Among them, he made it easier to build or to renovate property. He got a tourist parking lot constructed. He remodeled The Mission Ranch and preserved the precious landscape it was on which was supposed to be demolished in favor of 80 condominiums. He also opened the library annex which is dedicated for children's use, and it is said to be the accomplishment of which he is most proud.

Though he enjoyed his experience, he opted not to run for a second term. He began to reach this conclusion one day standing in a chilly garage, surrounded by staff and council members trying to decide if a prominent Carmel citizen, a doctor, would be permitted to change the slope of his garage roof. Life was too short for this kind of pettiness. Late in 1987 he announced that he would not stand for a second term. And although he made two films while in office (Heartbreak Ridge and Bird), in early 1988, Clint was back to devote a full time effort to his career in film.