Rockin' mayor is on a roll

Forget the presidential race. Who will be holding office at grass root level is what is deep in the heart of Texans, writes John Carlin

RYAN TRIMBLE, the mayor of Blanco (pop. 1,238), said he felt real sorry for the Prince and Princess of Wales, sorry for the British monarchy in general. He knew, from his own experience, what they were going through.

"I'm mayor. I've been mayor for three terms. I'm under the spyglass too. So I understand. I don't have a private life. When I first took up this post in 1991, the local newspaper said things about me I didn't like. That's the way it is when you're in the public eye. So yeah, I can relate. I feel real sympathy for her and the prince."

It became pretty clear to me before I'd even set eyes on Mayor Trimble that he was no shrinking violet.

"You were real smart to find me," he said, when I phoned him up for an interview. "I've been on TV, I've been interviewed by Tom Brokaw - you know, the NBC news guy. Did you know that I used to be Bruce Springsteen's producer?"

I didn't have a clue. My initial plan, I explained, had been to write about the Republican presidential primary to be held in Texas on Tuesday. It had seemed tremendously important, this being America's second largest state, until Bob Dole cleaned up in Georgia, New England and New York. By the middle of last week it was obvious that Senator Dole had the nomination in the bag. So I thought I'd take a look instead at one of the 4,000 or so other Texan primary elections taking place on the same day as the presidential vote, in one of which Mayor Trimble is among the candidates.

It turns out that Republicans from the 254 counties of Texas will be marking crosses all over a long ballot paper listing not only the aspirant nominees for the presidency, but for the state congress, for district judges, for sheriffs, for district attorneys, for tax-collectors, for county commissioners, for local party chairmen. It turns out too, and this might be news for the natterers in Washington, that people are far more interested in who will represent them at the grass roots than at the national level.

Connie Granberg, the owner of Blanco Auto Parts, confirmed what Mayor Trimble told me, that the chief reason people turn up at the polls is to elect their local office-bearers. "The names of Dole and Forbes and Buchanan are on the ballot so, sure, we'll make our choice," said Ms Granberg, who is herself on Tuesday's Blanco ballot, running unopposed for the Republican county chair. "But people feel the national vote is out of their control. The local stuff - who's sheriff, who's commissioner - that affects them daily."

Mayor Trimble is running for commissioner, a position which - if he wins - would expand his authority over such matters as garbage removal, road repairs, water, sewage and the local police force beyond the town of Blanco to the county of Blanco, which has a population of 5,300.

I drove out on Highway 290, west from Austin, to meet the rock-and-roll mayor. The scenery here offers a hilly respite from the Lone Star state's otherwise vast, relentless flatness. On the way, I passed a town called Dripping Springs; a giant billboard urging me to stop at a roadside lingerie store called "Cowgirls and Lace"; another billboard advertising "the World's Greatest Fried Chicken: nearly three dozen sold"; and numerous election banners, one of which read "Lefty is Right", put up by a Democrat running for congress who rejoices in the name of Charles Lefty Morris.

Blanco, I had been told, was a staunchly Republican district so I was surprised, upon reaching the county border, to see a large sign proclaiming: "Welcome to Blanco County. The Heartland of a Great American President, Lyndon Baines Johnson." This, it turned out, was where Johnson went to school. Not a huge claim to fame, but if you live in an anonymous little town deep in the heart of Texas, you snatch at whatever local history you can find.

A brochure I obtained at a bric-a-brac shop in the sun-blasted town square - an authentic John Wayne movie set - put Blanco well and truly on the map as "home to the second largest oak tree in the county".

In the council chamber of the smallest city hall in the world, a framed document hung next to a large plastic Stars and Stripes. "This is to certify," the document said, "that the accompanying flag was flown over the US Capitol on August 9, 1995. This flag was flown for the city of Blanco."

Mayor Trimble introduced me to Scar, the office cat, and before I could say "Howdy?" launched into his heartfelt Royal lament.

He was a tall man, 49 years old, with a stoop and a tidily trimmed grey beard. He wore a waistcoat and grey suit cut in the sober Wyatt Earp style, regulation cowhide boots and, in the first clue that he had once been a Sixties flower child, a green, purple and aquamarine tie.

"Janis Joplin was a good friend of mine," he said. "I taught her to play the guitar. She sang at a coffee house I had, a sort of beatnik club, on the coast near Houston. Later I founded Liberty Hall. It was a famous place, a 700-seat theatre in Houston. Little Feat played there; the Byrds; Bruce Springsteen; Steely Dan. I produced them all. Then Janis died - I told her, I told her to lay off the drugs - and then other friends died the same way, and then the punk rock thing came along, which I didn't like. So one day I said to my wife, Dorothy, 'Let's move to the hills.' It was in 1980. We came here in a VW camper bus and bought three acres on the river."

The rest is history. He became mayor, and now he's taking the next step up the political ladder by running for commissioner. Until now he had had no party affiliation, he told me. So why was he running now for the Republican nomination?

"The reason is that most people round here are Republican. I have to be a Republican to win the race. But I could just as easily run as a Democrat."

It seemed like a rash thing to be saying to a journalist but, as I was to learn, party allegiances count for little in Blanco, as in most other rural communities in Texas.

Ms Granberg, the lady running for the party chairmanship on Tuesday, said she didn't agree with a number of things the Republicans stood for, notably their position on abortion. "I'm more of an independent. I don't vote a straight ticket. In a general election I'll vote Republican for some positions, Democrat for others, depending on my opinion of the candidates."

Mayor Trimble was a conservative, he said, in the sense that he believed government should be run like a business. He had cut costs by firing city hall staff upon taking office. Then he proceeded to double the size of the water and sewage systems, pave streets and expand the local police force. Yet he was a Republican heretic, a hippie degenerate, when it came to the party's dogma on crime and family values.

"I believe in God, but I don't do organised religion. I worship my own way: I just go on down to the river and meditate. I don't believe in this right-wing Christian morality. You can't legislate morality. You can't shelter children from the real world. That's why I encourage sex education in schools here. And on drugs, I tell my police officers to help people, to educate them, not to jail them. It's an absurdity to jail people for marijuana use while giving federal government subsidies to the tobacco industry, which kills far more people than marijuana."

After five years occupying a position of far greater significance to Blanco's inhabitants than president or congressman or state governor, Mayor Trimble's deviations from Republican orthodoxy are no secret.

His core constituents are God-fearing ranching folk - there are 12 churches in town - some of whom are members of the ultra-right Texas Constitutional Militia. (Last week's Blanco County News announced that the local militia commander would be holding a seminar at a local auditorium this Wednesday evening.)

Yet, scorning the showy symbolism that dominates the national political debate, they have re-elected Ryan Trimble twice, for the simple reason that he gets his job done and keeps the local services ticking over.

And because he takes pride in what he does. He's not in politics for the money - the promotion he is seeking to county commissioner would earn him a salary of $17,400 (pounds 11,400) a year. "This is the most rewarding thing I've done in my life, being the leader of my community," he said.

"A better reward than any money I've ever made. The Moody Blues had a great line in one of their songs: 'The love you give is really meant for you.' It's so true. To help your community makes you a richer person. Material things don't give you the same sense of worth, really."

Suggested Topics
Sport
Premier League Live
footballLIVE Follow all the Premier League action as it happens
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
peopleTV star had been reported missing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone