The Mayor Who Tried to Eliminate His Own Job

If you want to win an election in the United States (and this is probably true almost everywhere else, too), here’s the trick: already be the person in office. Take Congress, for example. Despite often having amazingly low approval ratings as a whole, as seen above (via campaign finance monitor OpenSecrets), individual incumbents win their elections more than 80% of the time — and that’s in a bad year. Politicians in power tend to stay in power — and in some cases, they even try to use the power of their office to make that more likely.

Brian Zimmerman was one of those exceptions — and that wasn’t the strangest thing about his time in office.

In 1983, Zimmerman was elected mayor of Crabb, Texas, an unincorporated community near Houston with a population of about 200 at the time. Zimmerman won in a landslide — he took more than 75% of the vote. One of the key issues in the campaign was whether to incorporate Crabb into a town. As the New York Times reported, incorporating the town would “prevent annexation by neighboring cities, especially Houston.” Zimmerman, unlike the other two candidates, favored incorporation, as did most of the residents of Crabb (for reasons unreported, but it probably had to do with taxes).

But for Zimmerman, there was a downside to incorporation — he would have lost his job. Because Crabb wasn’t a real town at the time, he wasn’t truly the mayor — under state law, you can’t be the mayor of a non-entity. Instead, he was really just an honorary mayor as far as the state was concerned. In a typical situation, would become mayor if and when Crabb became an official town. But this wasn’t a typical situation. Brian Zimmerman was only 11 years old. And Texas law prohibited minors from holding public office. So, if Zimmerman succeeded in incorporating the town, he would have also succeeded in kicking himself out of office.

That never came to pass. Zimmerman’s efforts to incorporate the town failed, allowing him to run for re-election the following year. And despite that failure and the fact that he only devoted about two hours a day to the job (school, homework, and baseball practice came first), he won. His crowning achievement — per UPI, he had one of the town’s roads paved.

The young mayor’s political career, tragically, did not continue onward. In 1996, Brian Zimmerman died of a heart attack. He was 24.

Bonus fact: It’s unclear who holds the record for holding the same elected office for the longest amount of time, but in 2008, the BBC said that a guy named Hilmar Moore probably deserved that title. Moore was elected mayor of Richmond, Texas, a city just outside of Houston (coincidentally) in 1949. He held that office until his death in 2012  — that’s 63 years in power. Today? Richmond, a city of about 11,000 people, calls another Moore its mayor — his wife, Evalyn, is the town’s top elected official.

From the Archives: The Honorable Mr. Rhino: The bonus item is about another Texas mayor; the main story, well, you can probably guess the topic from the title.

Related: “Lone Star Kid,” a PBS made-for-TV movie about Brian Zimmerman.