Residents voting in San Luis Obispo’s mayoral race will find another, less promoted name on the ballot — Donald E. Hedrick.
While T. Keith Gurnee and Heidi Harmon’s campaign signs are on nearly every other lawn and business front, Donald Hedrick only has five campaign signs total. Each one is hand painted and made out of a cardboard barrel lid from Taco Works — small letters toward the bottom read “the committee to elect Donald E. Hedrick,” which is Hedrick himself.
“I’m basically a one man show,” Hedrick said. “I’m a demonstration of one person who has had too much governing, too much government against me, and I’m trying to do the right thing.”
Hedrick’s five attempts for mayor
This is the 72-year-old’s fifth attempt to be elected as mayor of San Luis Obispo. He officially ran in 2006, 2010, 2012 and 2016, and in 2013 for city council. Hedrick’s platform focuses on anti-corruption and anti-globalization, issues he said are rampant in the city.
“Our local government is being pushed by big developers and the pressure of the national corruption of our country,” Hedrick said. “These national things are affecting us locally.”
Hedrick did not always picture himself in politics. He first arrived in San Luis Obispo in 1964 to attend Cal Poly; he graduated with a degree in Industrial Technologies and went on to pursue a career in sculpture. Hedrick had his own welding and sculpture workshop in town for nearly 20 years.
Hedrick said his belief that San Luis Obispo is being taken over by developers led him to actively participate in city council meetings. However, he said he felt his complaints went unheard.
“In the early 2000s, after a lot of these city council meetings, I promised that if I continued to be silenced I would run for mayor,” Hedrick said. “Ever since, I’m honor-bound to run for mayor.”
The modern-day Don Quixote
During his first election in 2006, Hedrick claims an explicit email was sent to him anonymously, comparing him to Don Quixote, a character from the eponymous Spanish novel. Quixote’s character is obsessed with chivalry to a fault and often tries to fix nonexistent issues. Instead of being discouraged by the message, Hedrick decided to embrace the role of Don Quixote.
“Don Quixote in very much a dreamer and an idealist,” Hedrick said. “He would tilt at the windmills with his lance, and they represented injustice. That’s why on my yard sign it shows me holding a sword and facing city hall with a windmill on it.”
Hedrick’s signature hat, which he wears most days, is also inspired by Don Quixote. He hand made it from torn up pieces of paper and house paint. An “I Voted” sticker is stuck just above the brim, placed upside down to represent “how our politics and our country is in distress.”
“I don’t live here in the normal sense of having a house or apartment; I live in a truck in front of my old shop”
Hedrick can be seen wearing his Quixote hat around the city, often in his 1964 “old school” golf cart — with a garbage can in the back to collect recyclables — or on his makeshift scooter.
Working with an incomplete candidate website and only a few yard signs, Hedrick described his strategy as informal. However, he said he believes his intentions are good and stated he truly cares for San Luis Obispo.
“This is home, and I know how to live here. I don’t live here in the normal sense of having a house or apartment; I live in a truck in front of my old shop,” Hedrick said. “But I do know there’s a possibility that an individual of my intent could get elected here, someone who would speak out against atrocities happening. An individual can make a difference.”