Mayor Vaughn’s primary concern is to keep the small town of Amity financially viable during the summer season. He reminds Brody that they are a summer community, and if they cannot build revenue over the next few months from people coming to the beach, they will all wind up on welfare over the winter. He objects to closing the beaches on those terms, and rather too quickly assumes there is no real danger. He latches onto the idea that the tiger shark caught and killed is the right one, and doesn’t care to hear objections to it, nor will he allow them to cut it open (since he does not want “that dead boy’s remains to spill out onto the dock”). After the threat becomes real and more people die, Vaughn is more amenable to their advice and authorizes the money to pay Quint to kill the beast. He stops Brody from closing the beaches, by telling him not to act too hastily. Then he called a public conference to tell the public how to deal with the shark. He doesn’t like to rush into anything, but wants the time to think about it carefully before he makes a decision (including about Quint’s offer). After a tiger shark is caught, Vaughn prefers to believe based on the evidence in front of him that it is responsible for the deaths. Vaughn urges people to act as if nothing is wrong, but does feel responsible for what happened on the beach and wants to make amends, so he gives Brody the go-ahead to do whatever he needs to do, to capture and kill the shark.

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Vaughn is as concerned about how things “look” as he is keeping the town in business. He objects to anything that maligns the town’s reputation, to some degree because he knows it will reflect on him come reelection season. He doesn’t like people making light of things, and is offended when kids paint over the town billboard to include a shark fin (he wants the little paint-happy cretins found and punished for making them all look bad). He is dismayed to visit the beach and find no one in the water due to the shark scare, so he urges a local man to get out there and make it look like it’s “safe,” with the unfortunate result that two people are killed. He repeats a lot of these behaviors in the sequel, where he doesn’t want a shark to make them “look bad.” He can be charming and somewhat “smoozing” of the press, appealing to them and wanting to look good.