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Vote Buying Gets Golden Retriever Elected Mayor

There’s been rampant nepotism and plenty of vote buying in the town of Idyllwild, California. The “mayor” sometimes chews up his neckties.


Mayor Max III, golden retriever, Idyllwild, Calif.
Mayor Max III | Credit: Phyllis Mueller

Only pets were allowed on the ballot - which is why the elected leader in this unincorporated community near Palm Springs is a 1-year-old golden retriever named Mayor Max III - who chewed his way through three ties during his first month in office. His predecessors were the late Mayor Max II and Mayor Max I, both of whom were golden retrievers from the same blood line.


It all started when Phyllis Mueller and her husband moved to Idyllwild in 2011. Since Idyllwild is an unincorporated town, it had no mayor or elected officials. Soon after their arrival, the town's animal rescue center, Animal Rescue Friends, announced that it would be holding Idyllwild's first-ever election.


Mueller saw the timing as divine. She was sure if anything on this Earth could ensure peace and happiness amongst the community, it was surely a golden retriever. The town's first mayoral election drew 14 dogs and two cat contenders. Mueller campaigned hard for Max I, her golden retriever, and he won the election by a landslide.


Although the election initially aimed to serve as a lighthearted fundraiser for the animal rescue center (it cost $1 to cast a vote and voters could cast as many as they wanted to), Mueller and her husband chose to approach their dog's tenure in office with a serious commitment to doing some good. Which is partly why they spent $20,000 on their votes!


"This is an opportunity to be the real mayor of Idyllwild and do the real job, but without politics," Mueller told The Washington Post. "He loves everybody unconditionally. It's nonpartisan; it's nonpolitical. I'm going with it."


Mayor Max I quickly became a local celebrity, making appearances at weddings, schools, hospitals, birthday parties and nursing homes. He had a unique charm, connecting with people through eye contact, handshakes, and a charismatic tail wag. The same has been true of Max II and III.


Mueller is determined to keep the mayors in office for as long as she lives. "With the mayors, I want to remind people that there is good in the world. Every day, people do good things. These dogs here, they are living angels, and they love you with all their heart," she told The Guardian.


"People can't get enough of being with the dogs and getting pictures of them and petting them. It just makes them very happy, which is the payback for doing it."

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