With his trademark white beard, gravelly voice and strong opinions, Mayor Hilmar G. Moore is the most recognizable person in Richmond, Texas (pop. 11,081). The legendary leader has retained his office for 57 years by upholding a simple motto: “I don’t promise anything I can’t deliver. I don’t lie to anybody.”
Always straightforward, sometimes bluntly honest, Moore is believed to be the longest serving living mayor in the nation and is on his way to becoming the longest serving mayor in U.S. history.
“I have no intention of retiring,” says Moore, 86, who was elected to his 29th two-year term last May. “The day I die, I’m gonna quit.”
His conservative spending philosophy and fierce independence have helped him retain his office continually since 1949, without ever campaigning for the job. In fact, he’s seldom had a serious challenge from a political opponent.
Moore’s tenure began in September 1949 when the local Rotary Club asked Hilmar to take over an unexpired mayoral term. His father, who had served as Richmond’s mayor in the 1930s, advised his 29-year-old son to accept the post.
“He said to me, ‘If you have any idea of pleasing all the people, save yourself the headaches and the ulcers, because it can’t be done. But if you want to do the most good for the most people with the dollars you have, it’s a real good experience,’” Moore recalls. “And I’ll say 57 years later, it’s been a wonderful experience.”
A rancher by trade, Moore is well known across Texas for his leadership in the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. A fifth-generation Texan, the mayor was only 6 years old when he acquired his first calf. His love of the land and ranching roots influence the way he runs Richmond. He strives to maintain a small-town atmosphere and individual property rights.
“My family’s always been landowners,” Moore explains. “I feel like when you pay your taxes, you ought to say what you do with the land, within reason, not somebody else.”
With sprawling Houston casting its shadow over Richmond—the seat of Fort Bend County—the town has resisted efforts to turn into another homogenized suburb. Diagonal parking spaces still line the main drag, Morton Street, and the fire department rolls out its 1925 Model T and 1937 Dodge pumper trucks for every parade—with Lady the Dalmatian riding proudly in the front seat of the lead truck. The Richmond Barber Shop, where Moore continues to get his remaining hair clipped and his beard shaped weekly, is the place to go for gossip.
“I’ve had a lot of fun saying that thanks to far-sighted mayors like myself, Richmond’s a wonderful place to live,” Moore says with a mischievous grin. “I’d rather have a smaller, well-operated city than just a huge monster. To me, big is not necessarily good.”
One of the reasons Moore continues to run for office—his current term expires in May 2008—is his commitment to the city’s employees. Many of them approach him around election time and seek assurances that he won’t quit.
“He’s such an honorable type gentleman to work for,” says City Manager Glen Gilmore. “It’s an honor just to be associated with him. I don’t think I’ve ever known of a man that’s more honest and more sincere than what he is.”
Today, a group of merchants is raising money to erect a statue of Moore in downtown Richmond. The mayor says he didn’t ask for the honor and isn’t worried about breaking records. His city faces too many challenges, including a need to dig two new water wells and build a new wastewater treatment facility.
“It’s going to be a real juggling of money for us to get those things done,” he says, “but we’ll get it done.” And when Mayor Moore gives his word, somehow you know it’s the truth.
Visit www.ci.richmond.tx.us to learn more.