Wisconsin Village Loves Its Four-Legged Mayor
The Mayor of the Village of Sharon, Wisconsin, is a randy redhead who, when he's not wandering around the town in search of love, spends most of his day eating or sleeping. He's even been in jail. But still, the people of the village adore their leader.
"He just sits there and lets you come up to him. He doesn't have no problem with nobody," said one resident.
Actually, the Village of Sharon runs on a presidential system. While its president is human, its mayor is an orange tabby cat.
"He was a stray cat, and it was very cold. And I would invite him in for a little while, but felt bad for him because he didn't have a home and he was always very hungry and cold," said Jaymie Kunkel, the deputy clerk/treasurer of the Village of Sharon.
"And then he just sort of started creeping his way into our hearts," said Village of Sharon Clerk/Treasurer Dawn Redenius.
Freddy, the feline mayor of Sharon, lives at the Village Hall, where he greets people who come in to pay their water or property tax bills. But like any good mayor, he frequently travels around the town to greet his constituents. He makes his rounds to the town's Post Office, the back doors of restaurants, and at least one tavern.
"This is his town," said Sharon Postmaster Scott Vinke. "Everyone looks out for him. If he's crossing the street, everybody stops and gives him the right of way. He's the mayor."
Just about every day, Vinke sees the mayor walk past the post office and then hop up to the loading dock area. He admits that sometimes he brings Freddy some cat food from home and gives him a treat or is it a bribe?
"I've seen him twice today already," Vinke said on a recent afternoon. "He was here this morning when I came to work and during the lunch hour I saw him stroll by."
There was no election to appoint Freddy to his esteemed position. Instead, he found a willing subject to pay him his proper obeisance. One summer a few years ago, Kunkel noticed him hanging around the back door of the Village Hall. She began giving him treats, and Freddy gradually trained Kunkel by making sure he was there nearly every morning when she arrived for work.
By that winter, Freddy had become an overnight guest at the Village Hall.
Over the years, residents who did business at the Village Hall noticed the additional office worker. They brought him toys, food, a litter box, and even a comfortable bed. Some donated money for his food, litter and veterinarian bills.
Freddy was quickly dubbed the mayor.
"I think it's great, but then I'm a cat lover," said Harriet Theige, as she stopped to pay property taxes.
Last April, Village Hall staff let the mayor out for his daily rounds, and he didn't come back.
Kelly Hadley, a local business owner, said quite a few people -- including herself -- missed the four-legged mayor.
"You could feel the whole community's morale was down," said Hadley.
But then a Sharon resident noticed a familiar-looking cat in a picture on the website of a local animal shelter. The feline fit the mayor's description: large cat -- or, in all honesty, a bit on the fat side -- with white belly and legs, and an orange top coat and tail. The resident quickly contacted Kunkel and clerk/treasurer Dawn Redenius.
"So we had to bail him out of kitty jail," Kunkel said.
When they picked Freddy up from the shelter, where he had been living for a few months and gaining weight, village employees notified their friends on Facebook.
"Within hours everyone knew that Freddy was home. We had a couple people come in that afternoon and make sure it was Freddy," said Kunkel.
But his prison experience hasn't kept Freddy from making his daily rounds.
Every weekday when Kunkel comes to work shortly before 8 a.m., Freddy meets her at the door and follows her as she opens the Village office and refills his dry food bowl. When Redenius comes in, she usually gives him a can of soft cat food. The two town employees take turns on litter box duty.
Even though Freddy has the Village Hall to himself on weekends and evenings, he's only been in trouble once. Someone accidentally left some catnip on a desk, and Freddy used the occasion to party like a rock star. When Kunkel and Redenius came in the following day, they found papers strewn about and catnip scattered everywhere. But for the most part, Freddy is quite willing to leave the paperwork to his human minions.
Although the mayor has a wandering eye and seeks out affection and attention with what some may think is reckless abandon, apparently Freddy has an acute sense of time.
"It's really funny. We'll let him out in the afternoon and we'll say 'Freddy, you need to be back by 4:15 when we're closing,'" said Redenius. "And he usually is. If he isn't, he's usually somewhere else and we have to start calling and knocking on doors."
Police Chief Wolfgang Nitsche pointed out that Freddy only gets paid in kibble. Nonetheless, the Mayor of Sharon seems quite satisfied with his situation and, judging from appearances, plans to stay in his position for the rest of his life.
[Source: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]