Meet Mr. Stubbs, Alaska's Cat Mayor
Hear ye, hear ye. When musing about the full range of politicians and the new representation we’re seeing nowadays, remember that a couple of decades ago, we truly witnessed someone – a very furry someone – novel take an American office. In 1997, the next mayor of the small town of Talkeetna, Alaska, was born. Upon his election three months after his birth, he would go on to serve for two decades, all without ever uttering a single comprehensible human word. His name was Stubbs, and he was a fluffy orange cat who lived to the ripe old cat age of 20. And what a fulfilling life he had, for it was spent keeping watch (in theory) over his beloved small town.
So where is Talkeetna, exactly? Well, the answer probably tells you why Stubbs could even govern such a town -- If you can even call it that. The unincorporated Talkeetna is in southern Alaska, and lies about halfway between Anchorage and Denali National Park. It boasted about 1,237 residents as of 2021, and had even less when Stubbs became its mayor. It technically doesn’t need to have a head, though, because it’s so small.
But that didn’t stop the people. In 1997, Lauri Stec, manager at the local Nagley’s General Store, picked a kitten from a box full of unwanted cats that the owner had put up for grabs. Stubbs was the one strikingly without a tail who caught her eye, thus his namesake. The kitten soon became so popular for his cuteness as people stopped by the general store that he was eventually given the most important position in town.
Stubbs was allegedly elected as a write-in in the town’s “election” in 1997 due to a dearth of viable human candidates, though this was later disputed by NPR that Talkeetna was too small to have any election to begin with. His mayor-hood was more symbolic above all, considering the town had no incorporation, but the citizens allegedly complied with as many stately procedures befitting a mayor. He had “town meetings” at the general store whose upstairs room became his office, and also contributed to a growth in tourism as an attraction for those who were visiting. Talkeetna’s famous summer Moose Dropping Festival, in which moose dung is flung from a helicopter for onlookers to guess where it will land, also saw Stubbs preside over the event.
However, just because his political career was wholesome and cute didn’t mean it wasn’t dangerous. Despite having no controversial policies, Stubbs’ life was still endangered several times. In 2013, he suffered a vicious attack from a neighborhood dog that left him with a punctured lung, fractured sternum, and several lacerations in need of stitches. After nine days in the veterinary hospital and several hundred crowd-funded donations to help pay his medical bills, Stubbs returned to duty.
Before his death in 2017, he also was shot by teenagers with BB guns, fell into a restaurant's deep fryer (with no injuries), and hitched a ride to the edge of town on a garbage truck. Rumor has it that Mayor Stubbs’ brother, Denali, may one day be his successor. For now, though, Talkeetna still has no leader, nor may it ever have one as iconic as Stubbs.
Top Image: Jenni Konrad/Wikimedia Commons