Florissant selects a four-legged mayor

Brief by Central Staff

Small-town politics – September 2004 – Colorado Central Magazine

There’s the settlement of Guffey in southeastern Park County, where the unofficial mayor is a cat. Only 28 miles away, there’s another spot with a four-legged “mayor” — Florissant.

Paco Bell, a donkey, won a second term on July 24, defeating three other contenders: a white burrow named Birdie, and two no-shows, one absent because of colic and the other unable to come because the trailer was broken.

Voting consists of stuffing money in the appropriate candidate’s “ballot box” during the 15th annual Heritage Days celebration, and Paco Bell got the most, thanks to the ballot-stuffing efforts of the Pike’s Peak Historical Society.

Teller County Sheriff Kevin Dougherty swore in the incumbent, observing that “This is good and rural,” Dougherty said. “We love doing this kind of stuff.” Local residents, according to an Associated Press story, “like to poke fun at the political process, and they do it by electing a donkey as mayor.”

Florissant was established in 1870 and incorporated on July 7,1891 with 241 residents. When it comes to municipalities, “incorporation” means they establish city limits and form a government with an elected mayor and governing board — all humans.

Florissant grew in 1886 when the Colorado Midland Railroad laid its standard-gauge tracks through town, on its way from Colorado Springs to Buena Vista, Leadville, and Aspen. And it was a major staging and supply depot for Cripple Creek after the discovery of gold there in 1891.

But the railroads took other routes to reach Cripple Creek, and the Midland route through Florissant was abandoned in 1921. Celinda Reynolds Kaelin wrote in her excellent local history, Pike’s Peak Backcountry, that “Florissant even allowed its once-cherished incorporated status to lapse about this same period [circa 1939].”

Legally, of course, there’s no such thing as a mayor of an unincorporated area, since it’s not a municipality and can’t have municipal officers. But informally, well, we can probably guess the political affiliation of Paco Bell, since the critter is certainly not an elephant.