Clint Eastwood: Small-Town Mayor

By Roessing, Walter | The Saturday Evening Post, September 1987 | Go to article overview
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Clint Eastwood: Small-Town Mayor

Roessing, Walter, The Saturday Evening Post

On most Tuesday nights, the downtown streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea are so quiet the seagulls outnumber the people ten to one. But on the first Tuesday of each month, this idyllic, upscale resort town-situated on the famed Monterey Peninsula about 120 miles south of San Francisco-takes on an entirely different character. That's the night Mayor Clint Eastwood, America's perennial No. I boxoffice favorite, steps into the limelight to preside over Carmel's city-council meeting.

The 15-year Carmel resident was elected to the two-year mayoral post in April 1986 when he thrashed his incumbent opponent by almost a 3-1 margin. Since that election, he has given his mayoral job priority over his movie career, making only one film (Heartbreak Ridge), in 1986.

In his new role as small-town mayor, Eastwood's popularity remains as strong as ever. Indeed, inside the Carmel Women's Club on the first Tuesday of each month some 200 tourists townspeople, and journalists arrive early to make sure they get seats.

At one recent council meeting, newspaper reporters from New York, Melbourne, and London competed for front-row seats with a matronly Eastwood fan who had driven all day to attend the proceedings. Elsewhere in the jammed-to-capacity room, a noisy, circus-like atmosphere prevailed. Starry-eyed teen-age girls giggled and chattered; local citizens argued about pro-growth versus no-growth; and tourists readied their cameras for Eastwood's arrival.

But all the hullabaloo halted when Eastwood stepped center stage, banged his gavel, and proclaimed: "The Pledge of Allegiance tonight will be led by Boy Scout Troop 6 of Carmel-by-the-Sea."

Hours later, when the meeting ended, most of Eastwood's fans had already left. Still loyal to the end, however, was that middle-aged fan, who had gazed adoringly at the mayor the entire evening. Her patience was rewarded: Eastwood not only signed an autograph but also posed for a photo with her.

Also rewarded for their patience were the members of the press, who zeroed in on the mayor with such question"When your term is up, will you seek reelection? Or will you run for higher office?" True to the Dirty Harry character Eastwood plays in the movies, he winced and squinted disapprovingly at some of the questions. Nevertheless, he did his best to answer each one.

The questions about his political future seemed right on target. That's because Eastwood's popularity as a big-time movie star in a small-town political environment has fueled rumors that this registered Republican might seek higher office, such as governor, senator, or even president. After all, he's been a guest at Ronald Reagan's ranch in Santa Barbara and at the White House. However, before you begin thinking of Eastwood as a presidential successor to his fellow actor Reagan, listen to what this devout "Carmelite" has to say about such unfounded talk.

Speaking slowly in his low, gravelly baritone, Eastwood explains, "Everybody keeps talking about me going on to another political office. But that's not my ambition at all. I only took this job because it's in the community where I live. This is where I want to stay." He adds that it'"way too earl " to consider a second term as mayor-though that subject is on everyone's mind.

To most people, serving as the mayor of a pocket-size resort town seems rather dull in comparison to Eastwood's status as a filmland superstar. But the tall, lanky, 57-year-old actor insists that being the mayor of Carmel is anything but boring. He calls his job "interesting, challenging, and quite different, because I've never been in a political office before." Then, with a touch of dry humor, he quips, "I make $200 a month on this job-and some people think I'm overpaid."

Despite insisting the job is "interesting," His Honor dislikes all the media attention, because, down deep, he's really a shy, sincere, and very personal individual who enjoys his privacy.

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