How Clint Eastwood Helped This California Town Legalize Eating Ice Cream in Public

by Emily Morgan

Most Clint Eastwood fans would describe the actor and director as a gritty and rugged individual, evident in his movies. However, did you know he’s responsible for legalizing ice cream in his town? 

Eastwood is known for films like Gran Torino, yet he’s also known to residents in a town as “Mayor Eastwood.” During the ’80s, the icon had a brief foray into public office. During his two years in office, he had the famous ice cream debate. 

Carmel-by-the-Sea, also known as Carmel, is a quiet, picturesque town on the California coast. The exclusive town only occupies about a square mile of actual land and has about 3,000 residents. 

Before his acting career took off, he got involved in the town’s politics. A zoning dispute made him aware of the town’s old-fashioned way of governing. As a result, he decided to run for mayor in hopes of updating the town’s way of governing. 

Residents voted in the Mule actor on April 8, 1986. He also donated his $200-a-month salary to the local youth center. 

During his time in office, he overturned a series of odd ordinances in the town, including one that outlawed ice cream cones in public. After being elected, Eastwood leaned into his anti-establishment persona to make long-lasting changes. He fired all four members of the city planning board who refused to repeal the rule banning ice cream cones in town. 

Eastwood also introduced more commercial development and modernized city infrastructure. Yet, he worked to maintain Carmel’s sleepy feel that makes the town so unique. 

Clint Eastwood: Big time actor, small-town mayor

Today, the town still maintains a balance between small-town charm with modern services. For example, a local animal sanctuary and hotel resort, Mission Ranch, exists because Eastwood used $5 million of his own money to make sure developers kept it standing. 

While Clint Eastwood only served for one term as mayor, there’s no doubt he made a difference in his own town. As a result, Carmel saw an explosion in its tourism, as outsiders discovered Carmel’s natural beauty.

Eastwood’s brief stint in the town’s politics lives on forever in his own “Clintsville” gift shop, which sells t-shirts and mugs with the former mayor’s face on them. 

If you thought it couldn’t get more interesting, one of Eastwood’s most memorable films premiered while he was serving in office. Heartbreak Ridge opened in December of 1986, making him perhaps the only mayor in U.S. history to have a number one movie in theaters while he was still in office. 

Beyond the ice cream incident, Eastwood also expanded the town’s public library and added more public restrooms. Meanwhile, he started filming his next Dirty Harry movie, The Dead Pool, in 1988. Amid being a famous movie star, he prioritized Carmel. He was known for flying into town to take care of local government business and attend weekly city council meetings.