'My Dog Won The 2020 Mayoral Election In Rabbit Hash, Kentucky'

Rabbit Hash is a river hamlet town in Kentucky with a small population of around 470 folks. It's one of those places they call "the center of the universe." It's hard to explain the feeling that you get when you're there, but it's really nostalgic and it's just such a wonderful place. And it's a town that's known for its love of dogs.

In 1998, a man called Don Clare started a fundraising event for the Rabbit Hash Historical Society here in town and they thought it would be cute and funny to have a dog, or any type of animal, run for the position of mayor. In 1998 Don's dog Goofy was the first mayor, and it's been a tradition ever since. Every four years, in line with the U.S. presidential election, the town votes in a canine or a feline—it just happens to have been dogs so far—as mayor.

I moved here for a job about 15 years ago and I've done a lot of rescuing of both cats and dogs and I own two dogs that are rescues. Wilbur Beast is American Kennel Club (AKC) registered French bulldog and he's been part of our family for four months, he's actually only six months old. Earlier this year I decided he should become a candidate for mayor.

The rules of the mayoral election here have always been that you have to be able to walk to the general store in the middle of the town within an hour, or chase a rabbit there if you're an animal, to run for election—luckily we met that criteria.

I did a lot of campaigning for Wilbur, including night nights up learning the ins and outs of getting Wilbur's information out onto social media. French bulldog lovers came out to support him from all over the world as well as local people here in Rabbit Hash.

We have a dog and pony show that Wilbur attended during the campaign and won first place. We held a couple of rallies arranged through social media groups and we have created what we call "Wilbur wear"—t shirts and sweatshirts that have Wilbur on them.

Mayor, Mayoral Election, Kentucky, Dogs
Wilbur Beast, the newly elected Mayor of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky. Rob Stone Photography

People were able to vote online from anywhere in the world—from the start of the campaign time, which is usually the end of August, up until 8pm on the day of the presidential election. It's also possible to submit ballots at the Rabbit Hash general store in person. Each vote costs $1 and the mayor is always announced on the evening of presidential election day.

On the night of November 3 all the candidates, who are great people and animals, gathered in one of the barns in Rabbit Hash. We had some paper bags where people submitted any final votes and then the treasurer of the Rabbit Hash Historical Society counted those final votes and announced Wilbur Beast as winner with 13,143 votes—the highest number we've ever had. The animal that gets second place in the election is called the "Ambassador of Rabbit Hash" and that title went to a dog named Jack Rabbit. He's a wonderful therapy dog and he and Wilbur are actually friends.

Because there is no human mayor in Rabbit Hash, Wilbur is now the town's only mayor. We'll have what we call an "in-dog-uration" in January, around the same time the next president is sworn into office. The "in-dog-uration" is a black tie event and all the previous animal mayors and ambassadors from previous years also attend. Anyone from anywhere can come to the town and see the official swearing in of the new mayor.
Wilbur's mayoral duties are mainly to be in the town and attend any fundraising events. Any time it's nice outside he'll be out in town, on the front porch of the general store, mainly just sitting, doing nothing and getting petted.

Mayor, Mayoral Election, Kentucky, Dogs
Wilbur Beast won the 2020 mayoral election in Rabbit Hash, Kentucky. Wilbur received a record number of 13,143 votes, higher than the town has ever seen in the mayoral race. Rob Stone Photography

Over the next four years I want Wilbur to continue to raise money for the Rabbit Hash Historical Society and we'd like him to help bring awareness to mental health issues, women's health issues and in particular, breast cancer awareness.

Besides raising money for the town, the goal was to give everyone something they could laugh at and something that could be a diversion. The mayoral election is for a good cause but it's also a distraction from the real election, as it's really not political at all.

It's been great, because people from all over the world are touched by Wilbur's Instagram and Facebook. People have been writing comments about how adorable and cute he is and we really don't get any negative comments at all. We've seen a lot of bickering and fighting around the presidential election and we haven't had any of that with the Rabbit Hash mayoral election. People have been so happy for Wilbur, it's really touched me.

Amy Noland lives in Rabbit Hash, Kentucky and is Wilbur Beast's human. You can follow Wilbur on Facebook at Mayor Wilbur of Rabbit Hash KY and on Instagram @wilburbeast2020.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Jenny Haward.