Magnificent Mayor Stubbs
by Brad Dison
Just over one hundred miles north of Anchorage, Alaska, sits the small, picturesque, historic town of Talkeetna. It is a small town with a population of about 900 residents. Talkeetna is the last stop for tourists and climbers destined for North America’s tallest peak, Mount McKinley. Much of the village’s income comes from tourist who visit for hiking, mountain biking, camping, fishing, hunting, rafting, and flightseeing. Local artists, craftsmen, and musicians sell the products of their crafts in shops throughout the town.
The candidates for the 1997 Talkeetna mayoral race were not popular with the villagers. They longed for a good, honest candidate. One of the villagers suggested they nominate a well-liked villager nicknamed Stubbs. Secretly, the residents spread the word that on election day they would write in their vote for their preferred candidate. Stubbs made no political speeches, never asked the people to vote for him, nor did he do anything other than his normal day-to-day routine. One supporter proudly told anyone who would listen that “He’s everybody’s guy.” Without do so much as a handshake to gain a vote, Stubbs became mayor.
Stubbs spent most of his time, not in a stuffy office away from the public, but in Nagley’s General Store where he mingled with locals and tourists alike. Well-wishers who were unable to find Mayor Stubbs at the General Store only had to look next door at the West Rib Pub and Cafe where he always had his choice of seats and drank water from a wine or margarita glass. Mayor Stubbs never drank alcohol. Mayor Stubbs loved socializing with tourists and hammed it up for cameras. Everyone who met him said “He’s got a great personality.”
Shortly after becoming mayor, word spread beyond Talkeetna of his charisma and charm. His popularity grew into fame when newspapers around the nation reported on his vibrant personality. People flocked to the town to meet Mayor Stubbs and have their picture taken with him. Mayor Stubbs was always happy to oblige them.
Mayor Stubbs always oversaw but never participated in the yearly Wilderness Woman and Bachelor Auction and Ball. During this charity event, local bachelors were auctioned off to the highest bidders and spent an evening with the winning bidders. Not to be left out of the festivities, they held a wilderness woman contest which consisted of several tests of strength and endurance “to show these bachelors what women are made of…Alaskan grit!” As always, Mayor Stubbs socialized with everyone present. Local residents could not have been happier with Mayor Stubbs. When a reporter asked Geoff Pfeiffer, waiter at the West Rib Pub and Café, how he liked the mayor, Geoff replied, “We all love him.” He explained that he and his coworkers vied for their chance to wait on the mayor.
On the night of September 7, 2013, a vicious dog attacked Mayor Stubbs as he was taking an evening stroll through town. After what must have seemed like an eternity, Mayor Stubbs escaped from the dog’s clutches. Mayor Stubbs suffered a punctured lung, a long deep gash on his side, and several bruises. Bleeding and weak, a local resident loaded Mayor Stubbs into his vehicle and drove an hour to the nearest hospital. Staff at the hospital were afraid that Mayor Stubbs would not survive what turned out to be a three-hour surgery. Word quickly spread of the vicious attack on Mayor Stubbs. People from all over the world wished him a speedy recovery on his Facebook and Twitter pages. Many of them sent donations to help pay his exorbitant hospital bills. The residents of Talkeetna did their part as well. Mayor Stubbs’s donation jar at the general store soon overflowed with coins and folding money. To their relief, Mayor Stubbs made a full recovery.
As soon as his health returned, Mayor Stubbs returned to his position in Talkeetna. Once again, he spent most of his time making pleasantries with locals and tourists. Mayor Stubbs held the office of mayor until he died in his sleep on July 22, 2017. People all over the world mourned his death and posted letters of condolence on his Facebook page. Mourners also shared pictures of themselves with the beloved mayor. They noted that for him to have been mayor at all was an amazing achievement. Normally, a candidate had to be eighteen years of age to run for office, but the overwhelming support for Stubbs made officials take drastic action. You see, Mayor Stubbs was elected when he was just sixteen years old. Mayor Stubbs was also…a cat.
- Decatur Herald and Review, September 4, 2013, p.22.
- The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) September 7, 2013, p.2.
A writer of history, Brad Dison earned his master’s degree in the subject from Louisiana Tech University. He has written four history books and has been published in newspapers and scholarly journals. Keep up with the column through the Facebook group “Remember This? by Brad Dison.” For more real stories about real people with a twist, listen to Brad Dison’s podcast “Remember This?” at http://www.BradDison.com. The “Remember this?” book is now available for preorder the following website…BradDison.com. Order your copy today!
Categories: Special Feature