8 Things You Didn't Know About Our Mayor Tom Butt

Besides being our mayor and a progressive champion for Richmond (with a record to match), there are many interesting facts about Tom Butt that you may not know. We’ve broken down what we think are the most unique ones about our mayor below:


1. Tom Butt is an Accomplished Architect

Tom founded the architecture-engineering firm, Interactive Resources in Richmond in 1973. Both Tom and the firm are nationally-recognized leaders in sustainable architecture and building technology. Tom designed some of the first solar-powered homes in California. Tom’s contributions were recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Institute of Architects.

2. Tom is a Wind Energy Pioneer

In 1976, at his Richmond home, Tom built the largest wind-powered electric generator in California at the time, and the first to feed power into the electric grid. Tom’s generator became a research project that paved the way for commercial wind power in California.


3. Tom Butt’s Landmark Lawsuit Established Education as a Civil Right in California

In the early 1990’s, after the local school district went bankrupt, and West County schools had to close, Tom successfully sued the State of California to keep them open. The landmark 1992 case, Butt v. California set the judicial precedent that education is a fundamental right guaranteed for all in our state. Tom has continued fighting for our kids. As Mayor, he secured more than $35 million to fund the Richmond Promise scholarship program, which guarantees every graduating high school senior in Richmond a college scholarship and is the largest scholarship program of its kind in California.

4. Tom's Thumb is Rather Green

When he’s not busy leading Richmond, Tom’s an urban farmer, growing fresh fruit and vegetables at his home. Tom also keeps bees and a herd of goats. Don’t worry, we’ve got the pictures to prove it:


5. He's Been Here for More than 45 Years

Tom Butt has lived in Richmond with his wife Shirley for more than 45 years. They were married in Muir Woods in 1971. Tom originally hails from deep in the Arkansas Ozarks. (Alright, his southern twang might’ve already given this one away!)

6. Tom Has Been a Leader in Preserving Richmond’s History

Since moving to Richmond in 1973, Tom has worked tirelessly to preserve our city’s rich historical legacy. He has preserved and restored treasured architectural landmarks in Richmond, and he played a key role in the creation of the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park by Congress in 2000. Tom also saved the East Brother Light Station in San Pablo Bay, earning him the U.S. Coast Guard Meritorious Public Service Award. The California Preservation Foundation recognized Tom as Legislator of the Year for his work in Richmond preservation.


7. Tom Built Roads and Bridges in Vietnam and Once Escaped a Coup on Foot

Tom served in the U.S. Army as a combat engineer officer, designing and constructing roads and bridges in Vietnam — many of which still stand today. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal for his accomplishments. During his time in Southeast Asia, Tom was caught up in a coup in Cambodia, forcing him to escape by foot into neighboring Thailand (read more about it here). In 2009, Tom returned to Vietnam with his wife Shirley, retracing his steps from decades before (you can read Tom’s journal and see pictures from the trip here).


8. Tom is Also an Artist and Writer

As an architect, Tom has been drawing for decades, but he also enjoys sketching with pen and ink, (see some of them here) on travels all over the world. He’s a prolific writer — maybe you’ve read one of his almost daily E-FORUM messages to constituents with archives going back to the year 2000? He has also authored dozens of published technical articles on building technology. 


Mayor Tom Butt has a history as unique and varied as Richmond itself. If you want to learn more about Tom, his background, and his dedication to our city, you can check out our full site for more information.