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Small Alaska Town Mourns Loss of Stubbs the Cat, Beloved Honorary Mayor

Stubbs reigned with a light paw and a loyal following

Stubbs poses on a car in a 2006 photo. (Jenni Konrad / Flickr)
smithsonian.com

Unlike many modern-day politicians, he was universally beloved by the town he led for more than 18 years. Thus, the people of Talkeetna, Alaska, population 900, deeply mourned the death of the ginger-haired cat that they called mayor this past weekend.

"He was a trooper until the very last day of his life," Stubb's human family wrote in a statement this weekend. "Thank you, Stubbs, for coming into our lives for the past 31 months; you are a remarkable cat and we will dearly miss you."

According to legend, Stubbs came to power in a 1998 write-in election after residents were dissatisfied with the human candidates for mayor that year. In reality, Talkeetna (a Smithsonian.com "Best Small Towns of 2017" pick) has no mayor because it is a "historical district," not an actual town. Stubbs was the cat of the family that owned the area's prominent general store.

Nevertheless, the cat was embraced by residents of the area as a tourist attraction and beloved figure of local pride. "We don't know what we'd do without him, really," local resident Leah Vanden Busch told Jim Carlton in a 2013 Wall Street Journal profile of the mayor. Politically too, he was widely approved of. "He hasn't voted for anything I wouldn't have voted for," resident Peg Vos told Carlton.

That year, however, Stubbs suffered a brutal mauling from a local dog that required surgery. He soon resumed his mayoral duties, which mainly consisted of wandering around the town, drinking catnip-laced water from margarita glasses, and of course, sleeping a lot. Stubbs was even drafted for a last-minute campaign as a write-in candidate in 2014 for Alaska's U.S. Senator race, though he was unsuccessful in his bid.

In the last few years, however, reports Charles Levin for CNN, Stubbs began to come to the general store (his "mayoral office") less and less, preferring to hang around the home of his owners.

"Stubbs did a couple TV shows and more than a handful of interviews, but was not fond of the camera and all the people; it had gotten to be too much for him," his owners said in a statement.

The end came peacefully last week, reports Chris Klint for KTVA News, with Stubbs dying in his sleep.

The mayoral post is vacant for the first time in a long time, but it likely won't be for long, reports Levin. The fittingly named Denali,​ one of the other kittens owned by Stubbs' family, may soon step into the power vacuum.

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