THE results of local elections in a small village in the Balearics surprised more than a few people – not least the winner himself.
For once the dust had settled and the customary negotiations between the political parties had been concluded, the Mallorcan town of San Joan found itself with a strapping, six-foot one-inch Brit as mayor.
“I’ve lived here for nine years – and somehow I am now the mayor,” Richard Thompson, 52, tells the Olive Press with endearing self-deprecation.
Standing in municipal elections with the Mes per Mallorca party in a small village in the heart of the island, Thompson knew that – with the team he had assembled – he had a chance.
Not just to win, but to become the first British mayor in Balearic history – and the third ever in Spain, after Mark Lewis in the Costa Blanca in 2008 and Carmen McPhee in a Leon village in 2013.
But would the 2,000 residents of San Joan, more rural and isolated than other towns, vote for a foreigner born near Brighton in the south of England?
“It’s a real tribute to the villagers that it wasn’t an issue in the end,” Thompson said.
“They felt we had the best team and we were going to do the best for the village.
“I’m sure the fact that I’m a foreigner crossed their minds. They’re like, ‘well, we’ve got a guy who wasn’t born here, he’s not got Spanish nationality, his Catalan is only improving…
“But, you know what? We’re gonna vote for this guy to be mayor.’”
It helped that Thompson was already a recognised face in the village.
Married to a local, he arrived nine years ago and opened a language school through whose doors all the great and good of San Joan must have passed through at some point.
“I’ve taught between three and four hundred people in the village,” Thompson explained.
“And if I haven’t taught you, the chances are I’ve taught your son or your daughter or your grandchild.”
He also endeared himself by taking part in the village’s ‘Playback’ talent show – ‘a little like Soan Joan’s Got Talent.’
His latest on-stage choreographed performance? A five-man fedora-wearing, sunglasses-adorned tribute to those kings of cool, the Blues Brothers.
In a small town where ‘everyone knows everyone’, throwing oneself so wholeheartedly into the local customs and traditions goes a long way.
So far after his first couple of weeks in the job, his new constituents have been flocking to him to shake his hand and offer congratulations.
But then they invariably raise some minor issue that perhaps he could help them with – ‘a pothole in their road or low water pressure at home.’
“I know I’m still in the honeymoon period. I think the rule is, in politics, you’ve got about 90 days of grace to bed in.”
Hopefully, by then, Thompson will be well on his way to implementing his party’s 12-point environmentalist manifesto.