When he spoke at a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in 2010, President Barack Obama said: "It's just not easy being a mayor. But rarely, if ever, has it been more difficult than it is today." Lyndon Baines Johnson once said: “When the burdens of the presidency seem unusually heavy, I always remind myself it could be worse. I could be a mayor.”
It's a hard job that attracts a certain type a person, the type that makes great copy, as we saw this week with profiles of two mayors -- Chicago's Rahm Emanuel and Toronto's Rob Ford -- storming the Internet. Here is a by no means exhaustive list of some of the best stories we've accumulated about mayors over the years.
Michael Bloomberg: Since he was the longest serving mayor in New York City history, there were many profiles written about Michael Bloomberg. But sometimes a single Bloomberg quote could be more illuminating than 10 pages of prose. Like this one: "I like women and I think that they look stunning in high heels -- not that they look bad without high heels. I wouldn't criticize anybody. But, if I were a woman, I think I would wear high heels." Or this one: "Don’t ever take a lunch break or go to the bathroom, you keep working. You don’t ever know when that opportunity is going to come along.” Or this one: "Fran Lebowitz is probably the only person whose life I haven’t saved."
Stubbs the Cat: The mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska is a cat. He has been mayor for over 16 years. Why is he mayor? According to the owner of the Antler Outpost, "Anything's better than a human." When the mayor was mauled by a dog last fall, a cat-food company paid for his veterinary bills. Some locals aren't too impressed by the national Stubbs coverage, saying it's a PR scam to sell Stubbs t-shirts.
Richard J. and Richard M. Daley: Daley the elder served as mayor for Chicago for two decades until his death on the job in 1976. His son, Richard M., ascended to the post in 1989 and held it through 2011 when he retired and Emanuel won the office.
John Fetterman: Fetterman is the mayor of Braddock, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 2009, the Guardian called him the coolest mayor in America, he's been on the Colbert Report twice and he's become an easy proxy for the national media when they talk about renewal in the Rust Belt. The story's a bit more complex than that, as this piece in the New York Times Magazine shows. Last fall, he started officiated same-sex marriages in Braddock, despite a court ruling telling officials to stop. He said, "If a couple wants to go ahead and do it, I would as well. If the Health Department wants to send the gay police to come and get me, they're more than welcome to do that."
Rudy Giuliani: Esquire published a profile of the New York mayor titled, "Rudy Giuliani is a Colossal A*!hole." The subhead of the piece was "Which is precisely what makes him the best mayor in America."
Clay Henry Sr., Jr. and III: Clay Henry III was the third goat mayor of Lajitas, a town of 200 in Texas. The original Clay Henry -- currently stuffed and holding court at a cafe with a beer in his mouth for eternity -- was friends with Willie Nelson. "At age 23, he died after fighting with a younger goat over the affections of a nanny." The goat that killed him was his son, Clay Henry Jr. In 2002, Clay Henry III was castrated by Jim Bob Hargrove, who had to go to court for his misdeeds. The reason for the violence? Hargrove was upset that people were wasting their beer on a goat, even a politically powerful one, in a county with blue laws. After Clay Henry III's mysterious death, the mayoral seat has remained vacant in Lajitas. One person who might have run joked, "I was thinking of running for Mayor until I heard about the castration. I decided it wasn't worth it if that's how they treat their elected officials down there in Lajitas."
William Jayne: He was the mayor of Springfield, Illinois from 1859-1861 and personal physician to Abraham Lincoln. The president paid him back by appointing him governor of the Dakota Territory. He ended his career back as mayor of Springfield.
Ed Koch: Mark Singer's Talk of the Town piece about "the unshrinking, garrulous, and easily mimicked but otherwise sui-generis hundred-and-fifth mayor of New York City" isn't long but manages to convey Koch's personality and legacy with great parsimony.
John Lindsay: In July 1969, Jimmy Breslin profiled New York mayor John Lindsay for New York Magazine. The title of the article was "Is Lindsay Too Tall to Be Mayor?" Lindsay was almost two inches shorter than current New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Thomas Menino: The recently retired mayor of Boston -- who had personally spoken to half of the city's residents -- revealed in an interview with Mark Leibovich that he drinks cranberry juice instead of coffee and thinks it's highly unlikely that the Obama administration is about to give him an ambassadorship. If he didn't live in Boston, he'd be fine with Baltimore or Detroit.
Levar Mervine: The sometimes mayor of the empty town of Centralia, Pennsylvania -- infamous for the mine fires that have burned underneath it for decades -- Mervine saw his main responsibility as being the town's chief lawn mower. He died in 2010.
Hilmar Moore: He was the mayor of Richmond, Texas for 63 years, and when he died in 2012, the 92-year-old was one of the longest-serving mayors in American history. There's a lifesize bronze statue of him at City Hall, and his great-great grandfather signed the Declaration of Independence. He hadn't had an opponent since 1996. Never one to hold back his opinions, Moore said that early on in his tenure as mayor, he started telling people who complained to "go to hell." A 2008 article about Moore in the Houston Chronicle wrote, "Never one to hold back his opinions, Moore said that early on in his tenure as mayor, he started telling people who complained to 'go to hell.' His father took him aside and reminded him that he worked for the citizens who elected him and should give them civil answers. 'He said that if I didn't stop telling them to go to hell he'd run against me himself,' Moore said." The priest at his funeral told the New York Times, “'I felt like I was being asked to bury John Wayne,' Father Drabek said. 'How does one bury someone who is epic?'”
Sharon Pratt: The D.C. mayor that followed in Marion Barry's footsteps won 87 percent of the vote in her race, and still stands as the city's only female mayor. She was featured in People Magazine's Most Beautiful list in 1991. Her tenure was a controversial one, and she only ended up serving one term, before giving the reins back to Barry.\'
Joseph P. Riley: The mayor of Charleston, South Carolina is currently serving his tenth term. One supporter described his long career thusly, “It’s like shrimp and grits. We just grew up with him. He’s just always been mayor.” In 2000, he marched to the state Capitol to protest the Confederate flags flying atop it. Members of Hootie and the Blowfish joined him at the protest.
William Donald Schaefer: Richard Ben Cramer wrote about the famous mayor of Baltimore -- and the Baltimore Sun gave him a very, very long obituary when he died in 2011, so, of course you want to read all about him if you already haven't.
Charles Taylor: In 1884, the 21-year-old mayor of Van Buren, Arkansas was the youngest mayor ever elected at the time. A year later he became the only mayor to kill someone in office when he got in a fight with Alexander Aaron; "they had a difficulty about a prostitute," and Taylor pulled out a pistol and shot him twice.
Bobby Tufts: Dorset, the Restaurant Capital of the World, is a tiny town in Minnesota where they choose their mayor by drawing a name out a a hat. Bobby Tufts is the current mayor, serving his second term. He is also 4-years-old. The policy that will likely define his legacy is a decree to make ice cream the top of the food pyramid. He is currently trying to promote local business by trying to start a new ice cream shop in town.
Harold Washington: One of This American Life's most memorable political episodes devotes an entire hour to the career of Harold Washington, the first black mayor of Chicago. As Ira Glass describes him, "If you don't know anything about Harold Washington, you're in for a treat. He's one of those rare politicians who reaches high office and then somehow stays idealistic and outspoken, who's funny, who's smart, who's a great talker."
Gerald Yourman: The first line of Yourman's obituary read, "Former Pembroke Park Mayor Gerald Yourman, who once fired the town's police department, rode a motorcycle and jumped from airplanes, was buried on Tuesday." Calvin Trillin wrote about Yourman, "The town's mayor, Gerald Yourman, decided to resign a year before his term was up so as to be able to join his fiancee in Massachusetts because, he told the writer, 'I find that marital bliss and sexual sensation... are important to me.'"
Brian Zimmerman: He became mayor of Crabb, Texas at age 11 in 1985. His work mostly involved preventing annexation by Houston, which had a law preventing mayors under the age of 18. He also managed to get "one road paved" during his first year in office.