Cover Story: Tom Tait is Anaheim's Mayor in the Middle
Updated: Aug 13, 2020
A portrait of Max Strobel hangs in a hall on the seventh floor of Anaheim's City Hall, just outside the mayor's office. The aged black-and-white photograph of the city's first mayor, elected in 1870, is one of dozens of photos of the men who've held the job over the past century and a half. White whiskers recalling Walt Whitman and bushy Nietzschean mustaches from the 19th century fade into the clean-shaven mugs of the 20th; hairstyles and glasses reflect the passing decades. Big, tall, skinny, small, it's a smorgasbord of faces save for one thing: They are all white men.
The last portrait belongs to the current man in charge, Tom Tait. He's the end of this parade in ways both literal and symbolic. Thanks to white flight and a rising immigrant population, Latinos now make up 53 percent of Anaheim's population, while whites now constitute just 28 percent--half of what they were 20 years ago. A city once so reliably Republican that it gave Orange County its only U.S. senators (Thomas Kuchel and former mayor John Seymour) now has more registered Democrats than GOPers. And in a position where each mayor mirrored the establishment-friendly policies of their predecessors, the mild-mannered Tait turned into something no one expected when he was first elected in 2010: a populist.
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