In many cities, the mayor lives in an official residence that’s palatial by most people’s standards. But in America’s capital city, Washington, Mayor Muriel Bowser lives in a small duplex next to a family of four from Colombia.
“It’s wonderful to have the mayor right here,” family matriarch Flor told the Washington Post. “This would never happen in Bogota.”
Most mayors in the United States live among the people who elected them to office. Only a few cities — Los Angeles, Detroit, Denver and New York among them — provide an official residence. Bowser moved into her 300-square-meter home in 2001 and enjoys living there.
“This is really a neighborhood that is like so many neighborhoods in D.C. that are filled with working people who have invested everything that they have in their homes,” Bowser says.
Many big-city mayors stay connected to the community by keeping their residence. Tom Barrett, the current mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, still lives in a home he bought in 1999. Boston’s late mayor, Thomas Menino, lived in a small house in the neighborhood he grew up in.
Living among the neighbors also means a mayor’s home can be a focus of political action for citizens who want their voices heard.
In 2011, the mayor’s neighbor in Richmond, Virginia, allowed Occupy Movement protesters to camp on his lawn after police cleared them from public spaces. And in 2014, citizens in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, protested local policies toward the homeless outside the mayor’s home.
As for Bowser’s Colombian neighbors, “I just tell people, ‘Do not knock on the wrong door, please,’” says family patriarch Hober.