Mayoral profile: Nat Bates
on June 2, 2014
It was decades ago, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, when Richmond mayoral candidate Nat Bates received a call from his buddy, the late then Richmond Councilman George Livingston, to spur his interest in public service.
He was then working for the Alameda County Probation Department, and a career in politics was the farthest thing from his mind. But he knew Richmond, and had spent the majority of his life here. Many remembered his run excelling in both high school and college baseball and basketball. Bates also played professional baseball in Canada before being drafted into the United States Army.
“I didn’t know anything about campaigning or consultants,” Bates said. “But they assured me if I decided to run, they would back me. I ran and was elected on the first try.”
Now he’s the longest-serving member on the Richmond City Council. After more with 35 years of public service, he’s currently serving his eighth term. He took a hiatus from public office in 1989, and after a victory in 1996, he’s been on the council ever since. Twice his colleagues appointed him mayor, in 1971 and again in 1976.
Now, at 82 years old, Bates has no plans to slow down. He’s outlasted all of his Richmond political colleagues with whom he shared power in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. And now he hopes to continue serving Richmond residents as the city’s next mayor.
“I get a great thrill out of being able to help people who don’t understand the political climate of City Hall,” Bates said. “When you’ve been in a community much of your life, people begin to respect and respond because of your personal relationships. As long as I’m healthy, I’ll do it. When I get tired, and don’t see my efforts as being successful, then I’ll walk away.”
In the 2012 election, his campaign yard signs featured him alongside President Barack Obama with a slogan: “Obama for President, Bates for Council.” The tactic also worked in 2008, he said. Bates was invited to the White House Christmas Party last year. This wasn’t his first time at the White House, he visited in the 1970s during President Jimmy Carter’s term.
Bates has made four previous runs for mayor, all unsuccessful. But he believes this year will be different. If elected, he’ll focus on attracting viable economic development and he points to proposed projects like the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory campus, a major housing project in Point Richmond, and a distribution center in Point Pinole Business Park as a start.
“These are just things that are around the corner, and if you don’t have the right leadership in the right spot, these type[s] of dreams could disappear overnight,” he said. “And currently, we don’t have that council that is supportive of the business community.”
He’s running on the promise of bringing more jobs to Richmond, finding a viable alternative to the city’s eminent domain plan to help homeowners who are under water or on the brink for foreclosure, and balancing the needs of both residents and the business community. If elected Bates says he’ll sit down and work collectively with top officials at Chevron Corp. to make sure the city and oil company “are both protected.”
In previous elections, Bates’ campaign has benefited particularly from donations from Chevron.
But in order to attract and keep business, Bates says the council’s reputation for stretching meetings into the wee hours and neglecting important city business has to stop. He admits this is one of the more divisive and embittered councils he’s served on.
“We’re at a fork in the road, and the community is going to have to decide if they want to hang on to this anti-business, anti-Chevron attitude, or be progressive and move forward,” he said.
For more information about his campaign, visit http://www.natbatesformayor.com
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