3 Presidents You Didn’t Know Were Mayors

The 7 habits of highly effective city councilors and aldermen.
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There’s even history that some American presidents sat on city council.

President Calvin Coolidge Served Many City Offices

As mayor of Northampton, Mass. from 1910-1911, President Coolidge political rise was “methodical and steady.” Coolidge was one of the few American presidents to start their political careers by serving on city council.

Coolidge was a Vermonter than went to Amherst College, graduating cum laude and earning oratory and literary prizes. He stayed in Northhampton and began practicing law, and got involved with the local Republican Party. After serving city council, he became city solicitor in 1900, won county clerk in 1903 and was elected to the Massachusetts state legislature in 1906.

In 1912, he was elected to the Massachusetts Senate, serving as senate president in 1914, became the lieutenant governor in 1916 and was elected governor in 1918. He was elected vice president under Warren G. Harding in 1920, and when President Harding died of a heart attack in 1923, “Silent Cal” became president and was elected to a second term.

Source: Miller Center, University of Virginia

President Grover Cleveland Exposed City Corruption

As mayor of Buffalo, N.Y. from 1881-1882, President Cleveland was so popular, he was nominated to run for governor, which he served for nearly two years before being elected president in 1884.

“In one year, Mayor Cleveland exposed graft and corruption in the city’s municipal services (street cleaning, sewage and transportation), vetoed dozens of pork-barrel appropriations and set a pace for hard work and efficiency that impressed state leaders in the Democratic Party.”

He served as sheriff of Erie County from 1870-1873, but was practicing law when the Democratic Party tapped him as a “fresh face” to run for Buffalo’s mayor.

Source: Miller Center, University of Virginia

President Andrew Johnson Worked a Divided Union

As mayor of Greeneville, Tenn., from 1830-1833, the almost-impeached President Johnson spent the longest time of any POTUS as mayor. He was a “Jacksonian Democrat” alderman, then a mayor known for his sharp debate skill, wit and ability to please local crowds.

“He gained the support of local mechanics, artisans and rural folk with his common-man, tell-it-like-it-is style,” according to the Miller Center.

He then served as a U.S. Congressman, Tennessee Governor and U.S. Senator. Though Tennessee had succeeded from the union, Johnson was the only anti-abolitionist and southern senator to retain his seat, so President Abraham Lincoln appointed him Tennessee military governor.

With a national election approaching, Lincoln asked Johnson to join a bi-partisan ticket as vice president because he was a southern senator that was committed to keeping the union together. Johnson became president when Lincoln was assassinated in his second term, but the Democratic Party did not nominate Johnson for further service. Tennessee then voted him back into the U.S. Senate for a second time.

Source: Prairie Roots Research

Several mayors and former mayors are running for President in Election 2020:

‘Mayor Pete’ Officially Enters Election 2020

Former Mayor, Senator Cory Booker Enters 2020 Presidential Race

Former Mayor, Senator Bernie Sanders Enters 2020 Presidential Race

Former Mayor, HUD Secretary Julian Castro Enters 2020 Presidential Race

Former Governor & Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper Runs for President

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Enters Election 2020

Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam Running in Election 2020

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of EfficientGov.com and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.