The Town That Chose a Cat for Mayor: A Lesson for Us All


Sometimes, we fail to see the obvious solutions to our political problems.

Government at all levels is beset by the same problem — politicians. In the case of the presidency, I’ve often said that one likely solution would be to bar anyone who actually wants the job, as they all seem to want to sit at the Resolute Desk for all the wrong reasons (I could mention the current occupant, but that tale has been told) and to be honest, state and local governments are beset with the same issues. Politicians run the gamut from mediocre to venal to downright crooked, and at times, it’s hard to see a way around this problem.

But Talkeetna, Alaska, seems to have reached a solution. They appointed a cat as Mayor.

On the main street in Talkeetna, called K’dalkitnu in the Indigenous language Dena’ina, is Nagley’s, a general store whose history stretches back to Alaska’s gold rush era. Open since 1921, it started as a log cabin serving miners and trappers, and also previously served as a post office and a district territorial headquarters. Since the 1970s, it has always had a resident cat.

In 1997, when Nagley’s needed a new store cat, manager Laurie Stec found and adopted a Manx mix with a short tail whom she dubbed Stubbs. Stubbs became a local celebrity, greeting shoppers at Nagley’s and making his way every afternoon to the adjoining West Rib Pub & Grill, where he drank catnip-infused water out of a wine or margarita glass. 

In 2012, national media picked up the story about a town with a cat for mayor. According to multiple news reports, Talkeetna’s residents were unimpressed by the human candidates for the job and conspired to elect Stubbs as a write-in candidate. As fun as the story is, it’s apocryphal. Talkeetna is unincorporated, so it has no mayor. But that didn’t stop Talkeetna’s residents from naming Stubbs their honorary mayor, an office he held from 1997 until his death in 2017.

This isn’t at all a bad idea.

Look at the practical aspects. Stubbs worked for cat food and the occasional snort of catnip, which we can hardly deny to a feline saddled with all the responsibilities of the mayor. And when it comes to minding his own business, you really can’t beat a cat. As long as they are fed on time and have their ears scratched now and then, they don’t ask for much else.

It’s been said that politicking involves primarily “stroking the cat until it purrs,” and it looks like the good people of Talkeetna have that down pat. Stubbs, of course, is no longer with us, but it turns out that Talkeetna is in good hands; Stubbs’ daughter, Aurora, has taken on the job after her father finally used up all nine of his lives.

During his time in office, Mayor Stubbs seemed determined to use up his nine lives. He fell into a restaurant fryer, which was thankfully turned off and cool at the time. He was shot by teenagers with a BB gun and recovered. He jumped onto a garbage truck and accidentally hitched a ride to the outskirts of town before he was discovered and returned. In 2013, Stubbs survived an assassination attempt when he was mauled by a dog. He was rushed to a veterinarian in nearby Wasilla where he was sedated and treated for a punctured lung, a fractured sternum, and a gash in his side that required 12 stitches. Supporters donated money above and beyond his medical bills, and the excess was donated to local animal charities. 

Stubbs recovered and returned to his post at the general store, but he passed away in 2017 at the age of 20. He was mourned by all of his constituents. The town carried on the tradition by naming Nagley’s younger store cats, twins Aurora and Denali, as the new honorary mayors. Denali passed away in 2022, but Aurora continues to serve from her office at Nagley’s.

My wife and I find ourselves in Talkeetna quite often, as it’s about 50 miles away from our Susitna Valley homestead and has a couple of dining establishments we favor. I can confirm that the folks there are happy with their feline mayor. Maybe we should look harder at this model of governance. A prudent choice of animal, of course, is paramount.

See Related: Feral Hog Attacks! Swine More Dangerous Than Sharks, Bears. 

FOIA Requests Reveal That Biden’s Dog Attacked Multiple Secret Service Agents Over Several Months 

Of course, our human politicians have their animalistic traits as well:

  • Donald Trump: Bull in a china shop (one of his more appealing traits, really)
  • Joe Biden: Tree sloth
  • Kamala Harris: Laughing hyena
  • Mitch McConnell: Well, obviously a turtle
  • Chuck Schumer: Penguin

We can all stand to learn a thing or two from our friends in the animal kingdom. Cats, in particular: know when to relax, when to spend an hour or a day lying in a sunbeam — and they also know when it’s time for the claws to come out. And bears really have it made; eat all summer, sleep all winter; that’s a lifestyle I could get behind.

Talkeetna seems to have hit on a good solution, at least at the small-town level. While we are “out in the Borough,” we still have elections for the borough assembly and the borough mayor. Here on our property, we also have had, for the last two or three winters, a bull moose hanging around, spending mornings bedded down under a big black spruce behind our office and biding away the afternoons eating my favored black ash trees. Maybe, if I can organize a campaign to write old Bullwinkle in for borough mayor, he’ll head off to Palmer to attend to his mayoral duties and leave our shrubbery alone.

I mean, if Talkeetna can do it, why can’t we?