Mayoral Memories

I was once the press secretary to the mayor of Bolinas, Calif. Later I was the vice-mayor of the tiny coastal community. It may seem like the statements are a pack of lies, but they are actually true. At least if you buy into the fact that Dean Greenstreet was once the Mayor of Bolinas.

Greenstreet was The Mayor (albeit unelected to the title). He moved to Bolinas in the early 1970’s following a divorce from a woman in Novato. To the teenagers of the time, in a town known for counterculture people and men that favored long hair, tie-dye and beards,

Greenstreet was the closest thing to what an authority figure should look like that any of my peer group had ever seen. He had short hair, wore a necktie, and drove to work each day at a job over-the-hill. Greenstreet would often pick up wayward high school students who were hitchhiking to or from Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley. On the way home, sitting in the front seat of his late model station wagon, he would usually still be wearing a short sleeved dress shirt and tie and sipping on a beer as we maneuvered the curves of highway one on the way home.

It was the morning after a party at the house he was renting on the Little Mesa in 1974 that Greenstreet got his title. He had thrown an “Aries” party, an event ostensibly only for people born under the astrological sign.

But hearing of the party, a group of teenagers that had been hanging out on Wharf Road drove to the Little Mesa and invited themselves. Greenstreet welcomed everyone to the party and passed out drinks to the party crashers. I recall one of the crashers saying to Greenstreet, something like, “You’re the straightest looking guy in town. You should be our Mayor!” He politely declined, saying that he had never liked politics.

The next morning, as Greenstreet walked with a lady friend past the gas station, the teenagers from the night before spotted him and began cat-calling, “Hey – it’s the mayor!” and “Hi Mr. Mayor!” The name stuck. For the next twenty-three years, until his death in 1997, Greenstreet would forever be called The Mayor. Everyone in town started calling him that. He was interviewed by newspapers, radio and television as being the Mayor of Bolinas.

The Mayor was not one to take the title lightly. He participated in local events with the young people. At one point, shortly after his ascending to the title, he let himself be pulled down Wharf Road at about 53 mph while sitting on top of a Big Wheel. The Mayor said that he had “set the land-speed record” for Bolinas. He broke the record twenty years later, on the anniversary of his becoming Mayor, clocking in at 58 mph on the back of another Big Wheel.

He had eventually quit his job in San Francisco (none of us ever know exactly what he did) and worked part-time at the gas station. That’s where he could be found most any day of the week. As I recall, he had abandoned the rental on the Little Mesa and was living in a trailer on the property in his final years.

On one occasion in 1994, I remember spotting him near the community center, where a “rent party” was taking place to raise $500 for a local family to get into a house. At the same time, there was a gala affair (a benefit for the late Texas governor, Ann Richards, that raised $80,000 for the politician in one afternoon) happening on the outskirts of town. I was writing about that event for a column I was doing at the time in the Pacific Sun.

I asked the Mayor about the irony of why he was at the rent party instead of at the rich people’s party on the outskirts of town? (He was actually just standing near the community center and not really at either party).

The Mayor played along and looked thoughtful for a moment. He then proclaimed (in an official-sounding voice) that he would rather be with “his people” than with a bunch of highfalutin’ out of Towner’s, no matter what it would cost him politically. He then told me to make up any comments that I wanted – and to just make him look good.

People like The Mayor come around only once in a lifetime. I don’t expect to ever meet anyone like him again.

But I would like a shot at breaking the land-speed record.