The Cat Mayor of Talkeetna - Atlas Obscura

The Cat Mayor of Talkeetna

Talkeetna, Alaska

This Alaskan town appoints the general store's resident feline as honorary mayor.  

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Talkeetna, a small town of around 1,000 people, is a base for exploring Denali, North America’s highest peak, and may have been the inspiration for the fictional town Cicely in the 1990s television show Northern Exposure. It is best known, though, for electing 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.

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.

Know Before You Go

You can find Nagley’s store hours on its website.

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