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Telling Alaska’s Story: Talkeetna’s furry ‘mayors’

Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 7:49 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Nagley’s Store in Talkeetna, owned by Kjetil Spone, isn’t just your run-of-the-mill general store. It also doubles as the home of the town’s honorary mayor, a cat.

As an unincorporated community, Talkeetna does not have an elected mayor. Instead, an in-name-only feline mayor has served its citizens dating back to 1997 with Mayor Stubbs, a Manx mix with a stubbed tail.

“When I first found out I thought it was hilarious to see a cat as a mayor, but, you know, it is a very small neighborhood so I can’t imagine needing more than that,” said Talkeetna resident Cris Vargis.

“He acts like the mayor, let’s make him the mayor,” Spone said. “And Stubbs ended up being the mayor for almost 20 years.”

Stubbs soon became a local attraction and a national sensation, with hundreds if not thousands every summer stopping by to see him while he did his daily duties.

“Interact with the people of town and the visitors that come here was, you know, that was his main duty and he did it well,” Spone said.

Well enough for people to want to move to Talkeetna.

“Well you know, this is actually partially the reason I moved here. I used to live in Ketchikan, Alaska,” said Talkeetna resident Sharon Bender. “And then my husband said well, how about Talkeetna. I’m like, huh, what’s in Talkeetna? He’s like, well they have a cat for a mayor and I’m like really, that sounds like my kind of place.”

After his two-decade rein as honorary mayor, Stubbs died in 2017, passing on the torch to his successor, Denali.

“He’s my great-grand kitten,” Bender said. “So my cat Batavous is the grandpa of Denali. It was kind of an accident, I was supposed to have him fixed but he got out and found the neighbor’s little kitty and that cat we kept around and he had a little accident before he got fixed and therefore this is my great-grand kitten. So I’m very proud that he’s our mayor.”

Denali is a mayor that spends his days napping and getting pets, just like the previous one.

“It’s pretty amazing, they are very, very similar when it comes to behavior and what they do and even where they go and sleep,” Spone said. “It’s kind of weird.”

Both these symbolic mayors have been through tough times as well, from being attacked by a dog or falling in cold fryer oil, to getting stuck in many places and even being shot.

“I guess it’s good that cats have nine lives because they are definitely in need of them,” Spone said.

In the end, they always were back at Nagley’s resuming local paw-litics.

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