Michigan’s Animal Mayors And How They Were Elected
We've seen the stories before of small towns across America that have elected dogs, cats, etc. as their mayors. So how would that work in Michigan, you ask? Turns out, there's a bit of a loophole but there's one Michigan town that's got it all figured out.
How Do Animals Become Mayors?
To understand Michigan's animal mayors, we first need to understand the idea of animal mayors in general, or rather, "non-human electoral candidates."
"Non-human electoral candidates have been found in a number of countries," Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias shares. "Often, the candidacies are a means of casting a protest vote or satirizing the political system. Other times, it is simply done for the entertainment value."
Academic also specifies that it can be outwardly stated in electoral regulations that the candidate does have to be human and be able to carry out their duties. However, per FindLaw, there is something of a loophole used by some municipalities where an animal mayors duties can be listed as such so an animal can, realistically, carry them out and is purely more ceremonial than anything.
"In these cases, non-human mayors typically serve in a symbolic capacity, and their main duties may include publicity appearances at local events," FindLaw says. "The town will either have no official mayor or will appoint a human counterpart to their pet leader.
Are There Animal Mayors in Michigan?
With all of the above being said, would it be possible for Michigan towns to have animal mayors? That's where Omena, Michigan comes in.
Located in Leelanau Township, Omena is a small, "unincorporated community" and "census-designated place (CDP)" (Wikipedia) that, according to UPI, has been electing animals as mayor for the past decade.
Yes, you read that right! They've been doing it the entire past decade and it does have something to do with the "town" actually being an "unincorporated community" and "census-designated place", a village if you will. Because of these titles, they actually don't have a central governing system.
Therefore the Historical Society and the couple-hundred residents put on an election to raise money and elect a full-animal cabinet as more of a ceremonial system of government.
Omena, Michigan's Animal Mayors
As far as we could find, Omena is the only place in Michigan that has had animals "in charge" of their government, though Flint did have a pig running for mayor one year...
According to 9 and 10 News, a new mayor is elected in Omena every three years and 2021 marked the fifth animal mayor they've had.
So far, since their inaugural election in 2009, they have had three dogs as mayor and elected their first cat, Sweet Tart, in 2018.
However, Omena went back to the dogs in 2021 with the election of Rosie, a yellow lab who ran on campaign talking points such as: peace between cats and dogs, tick vaccines for humans, supporting farmers markets and more according to the Omena Historical Society.
Looking through the Omena Historical Society's "Mayor's Race!" webpage at the current cabinet, Omena also has a chicken named Penny as the "1st Vice Mayor":
As well as a goat named Sandra "Sandy" O'Day as "Press Secretary" and more:
They also like to have fun, as this is something of an "imaginary" government, which is why one of the candidates included an "invisible dog" named Lucky:
All in all, while not many towns in Michigan can ACTUALLY have an animal as their "official" mayor, it's nice to know it's still possible and turns out to be a great cause for smaller communities like Omena.