Three-time Tehachapi Mayor Edward Clem Grimes, a champion of his beloved city who was known as “the Voice of the Warriors,” died Monday. He was 75.
“He passed away comfortably and with his family around him,” said his son Jason Grimes.
Grimes served as mayor three times — from 2006 to 2008, from 2010 to 2012, and from 2016 to 2018. He has served on the City Council since January 2003.
“Ed was a great mayor but an even better person,” City Manager Greg Garrett said in a statement. “I’ve had the pleasure of serving with numerous City Council members but Ed will always be my Mayor. His kindness and genuine love for Tehachapi will be remembered for a long, long time.”
Susan Wiggins, the city’s Mayor Pro-Tem, said, “No one loved Tehachapi more than Ed Grimes. He was always proud to say that he was the mayor of Tehachapi and the Voice of the Warriors, and he wanted everyone to know that.”
She continued, “I don’t know of anyone who was prouder of his city and worked so hard to spread the news about it.”
His love for the city was evident at Monday night’s City Council meeting, where former Councilwoman Kim Nixon led a prayer in honor of Grimes. More than 40 people gathered and bowed their heads.
While he served for many years on the City Council and before that the Tehachapi Unified School District board for 20 years, he exuded a particular passion for his Tehachapi High School Warriors, announcing game action for his team at Coy Burnett Field. He was often seen around the city sporting a Warriors baseball cap.
“It’s one of the proudest things that I can say I’ve ever done,” Grimes said of his announcing in an interview with Tehachapi News in July 2016.
“For me, it’s a pride thing," Grimes said then, as he sat in the shade behind the press box at the football stadium. "To do it for as long as I have, you have to have a passion for it, and when it comes to the Warriors, I’m about as passionate as you can be.”
Everyone knew his love for his team.
Tehachapi High School Principal Scott Heitman called Grimes “the ultimate Tehachapi High School Warrior.”
“Everybody’s going to miss hearing that voice,” Heitman said.
Heitman said Grimes’ children and grandchildren were graduates of the high school, and that Grimes was also involved with the Warrior Boosters, helping to raise funds for the school’s athletic teams.
As of 2016, his July 4 pancake breakfasts had raised an estimated $50,000 over 15 or more years for the Warriors boosters. He would wake up at 3 a.m. just to get the pancake mix started.
“He was just a giving man,” said Steve Denman, a friend and former THS coach. He added, “He wanted to help the kids and all the support he gave made it better...It’s an honor to name him as a colleague for 30 years and as a friend for 30 years.”
But it wasn’t just football that he loved.
Jessica Janney, Tehachapi Warrior Booster Club president, said, “He cared about all the kids and all the sports.”
Grimes mentored THS students, and also those at the Jacobsen Middle School on the track team. He also coached youth sports.
In a 2016 interview with Tehachapi News, Grimes expressed that much of his commitment to the Warriors and the community stemmed from his childhood. He grew up an orphan, moving from one foster home to another. He and his younger brother landed in eight foster homes in three years before settling into a farmhouse off Tehachapi Boulevard on the east side of the city.
“Each foster home came with its own set of rules,” he recalled in that interview. “In some, I could go to the refrigerator and get a glass of milk. In others, I wasn’t allowed to do that. In one, we weren’t allowed to be hugged.”
He shared in 2016 that his mother, who died of tuberculosis when he was 5, was “the kindest, gentlest, proudest woman I’ve ever known.” She died two years after his father left the family.
Grimes even penned his own book, “Memories of the Mayor: From Chicken Coop to Mayor.”
Grimes was a staunch supporter of the city’s youth. He used the $300 per month he earned for serving on the council to fund scholarships for Tehachapi students going off to college, according to a city news release.
The mayor’s life was filled with public service. He retired from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, according to the city. He also represented the city through work with the League of California Cities and the Association of California Cities Allied with Prisons.
Janney, a resident of Tehachapi since 2006, said Grimes was instrumental in helping further the development of roads, stop signs and other city improvements.
The news of Grimes’ death quickly spread through the mountain community Monday afternoon, and brought an outpouring of memories.
Michelle Vance, district manager for the Tehachapi Valley Recreation & Park District, said she has been friends with Grimes — a man she sees as a father — for 25 years. They met in 2001 when he joined the Recreation and Park District board.
“He really wanted a high quality of life in Tehachapi; that’s what he strived for,” Vance said.
Vance said Grimes was incredibly supportive of the Park District and helped improve the community of Tehachapi. He even convinced her to expand her education by going back to college, which she said led to her becoming the head of the Recreation and Park District.
Vance even called Grimes “Mr. Tehachapi,” saying that he really loved his community. He was always talking about community, his family and why he was proud to call Tehachapi his home, she said.
Kern County Second District Supervisor Zack Scrivner, who represents Tehachapi, said in an emailed statement, “The City of Tehachapi lost a great man and leader. He honored his family and friends with his legacy of service.”
Nixon, the vice president of the Tehachapi Police Foundation and director of the Family Life Pregnancy Center of Tehachapi, said she has known Grimes for 30 years as a family friend. Nixon also served on the City Council for six years.
Nixon recalled that Grimes was a friend of her mom and dad, and that her kids grew up in Tehachapi alongside his.
“Ed was a man who lived his life large...he left the city with everything that was in him,” Nixon said.
Grimes also worked for Tehachapi on the state and national level by working with other politicians for the city’s interests, Nixon said.
“He fought hard in Sacramento for this community. He fought hard at the city level. He had a real sense of truth in what was right and wrong,” Nixon said.
Linda Carhart, president-elect of the Rotary Club of Tehachapi, said she met Grimes in 2007. She helped raise funds for an organization Grimes started to support local veterans and also worked with him through the Greater Tehachapi Economic Development Council.
Carhart said Grimes started the veterans’ organization about three years ago after meeting a veteran who had found a job in Tehachapi but could not afford to move his family to the city. The nonprofit has helped local veterans in similar cases pay bills and receive other financial support.
“He was a warm and inviting man who made you feel important, and truly was a cheerleader for everything that you did for the community,” Carhart said.
Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley President Jeff Lingerfelt said in a news release that Grimes was a supporter of the hospital. Grimes helped with the plans to build a new hospital in the city that Lingerfelt said will “serve as a reminder of what can be achieved by the type of dogged determination that made up so much of Mayor Grimes’ character.”
Services are pending.
Tehachapi News' Christine L. Peterson contributed to this report.