He is tall, slim, boyish-looking. Although he is 36, Huntington Beach Mayor Thomas J. Mays could easily pass for a college graduate student in his early 20s. He also could pass for being a hot-dogging young surfer, the kind who happily frequent the city's famous beaches.
Mays, in fact, is a former surfer, as he told about about 50 radio, television and print reporters from throughout the nation at a news conference last week.
"I can remember from my surfing days about how the wind conditions on the ocean would change," Mays said.
Mays, elected mayor by his fellow City Council members about three months ago, has been catapulted into national attention by the oil catastrophe that hit his city on Wednesday. By virtue of his position, he has become the city's chief spokesman.
He has been low-key in his news conferences and national TV talk-show interviews. He has not engaged in emotional hand-wringing over the oil spill, nor has he angrily pointed fingers of blame. His statements have been objective recitations of facts and figures involving the oil slick and the city's response. He seldom uses adjectives; he almost never raises his voice.