2018-07-26 / Front Page

Feline captures Omena mayorship

$7,000 raised for history
By Jen Murphy
of the Enterprise staff


KANDA MCKEE, the owner of the newly elected mayor of Omena, takes the furry feline named Sweet Tart McKee for a ride Saturday in the inaugural parade. KANDA MCKEE, the owner of the newly elected mayor of Omena, takes the furry feline named Sweet Tart McKee for a ride Saturday in the inaugural parade. Little Omena is going big time even though local politics have gone to the dogs — and now, cats.

Yes, Omena has sworn in its first feline as mayor, with chickens and goats coming up short.

Sweet Tart McKee, a nine year-old long-haired calico cat, was elected Saturday as Omena’s mayor.

“The Omena mayoral race has gone national,” former Omena Historical Society board member and mayoral election organizing committee member Debby Disch said. “In fact, it has gone international.

One of our committee members at the historical society had an interview with a station in Winnepeg, Ont.”

Mayor Tart’s first week in office has caught the eyes and ears of readers and viewers of news outlets all the way to News Channel 8 in Tampa, Fla.. A television station in Winnepeg also picked up the story.


LILIA LABRIOLA tends to her Lavender Orpington, Penny, who came in fourth in the Omena Mayor race and is now the Mayor’s Special Assistant for Fowl Issues. LILIA LABRIOLA tends to her Lavender Orpington, Penny, who came in fourth in the Omena Mayor race and is now the Mayor’s Special Assistant for Fowl Issues. According to Disch, a relative of an Omena resident saw the story covered on the news in Austin, Texas. “It’s being viewed all over - Kansas City, Salt Lake City, West Palm Beach, Eau Claire,” she said.

That all bodes well for the finances of the Omena Historical Society, which was the beneficiary of $7,000 in donations - a new record.

“The first time, we just wanted to raise something,” Disch said. “It’s gone up a little bit. Each year, it’s gone up. And this year we wanted to beat last year’s number.”

And thanks to the creative vehicle for charitable giving, the group did. Each vote cast online cost a $1 donation. There is no limit to the amount of votes a person can cast, so the society encourages constituents to “vote early and vote often.”

While funds raised benefit a historical cause, the history of the pets-only politics of Omena has its own story to tell.

It starts in a small town south of the Mason-Dixon line: Rabbit Hash, Ky. The current mayor’s owner had a lot to do with it.

“Kanda McKee (a historical society member), the owner of the current mayor, lives in northern Kentucky. She brought up the idea, but it didn’t light anyone’s fire,” Disch said.

Then Nana Kennedy, who was president of the historical society at the time, saw a Sunday morning TV show about Rabbit Hash, Ky, and took the idea to the Historical Society Board.

“They thought it was a great idea,” Disch recalled.

In 1997, the Rabbit Hash Historical Society held its first mayoral election for the unincorporated town.

Bobbi Kayser is president of the Rabbit Hash Historical Society.

“The (current) qualifications for our mayor is you can be either a bi-ped, tri-ped or quadro-ped, as long as you can chase a rabbit to the town center within an hour,” Kayser said. “We disqualify ducks and geese, though, because we are right by the river and we want them to stay in Kentucky.”

The first furry mayor was elected in 2002 — a nine year-old dog named Goofy. Since that time, the town’s been commanded by canines. While the first two were male, the current mayor, a two year-old pit bull named Brynneth Pawltro and her predecessor, an 18 month-old border collie named Lucy, shattered the glass ceiling.

“We think our election is much more important than that one they have up in Washington,” Kayser said. In fact, one election raised an impressive $22,000 for the Kentucky-based nonprofit.

Like the residents of Omena, the people of Rabbit Hash love the eclectic election.

To date, only felines and canines have held office. Omena appears much more diverse, with more progress possible.

Disch said Bert the peacock and Penny the chicken ran for mayor, which means they serve as council members.

There have only been furry mayors — so far. The next election will take place after Sweet Tart completes her three-year term in 2021.

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