Stiff competition: People, pets vie for unofficial mayor of Vashon

Clockwise from top left, Tim Johnson, Hilary Emmer, Arti the cat and Flag the dog will all campaign for unofficial mayor of Vashon. Arti and Flag will campaign together for VIPP. - File Photos
Clockwise from top left, Tim Johnson, Hilary Emmer, Arti the cat and Flag the dog will all campaign for unofficial mayor of Vashon. Arti and Flag will campaign together for VIPP.
— image credit: File Photos

Four Islanders — two of them of the furry variety — have put their names in as candidates for Vashon’s unofficial mayor.

The annual competition, with results announced at the Strawberry Festival, counts donations to candidates’ favorite charities as votes. The contest, sponsored by the Vashon Chamber of Commerce, is more about fundraising than running the Island, as the winner has few official duties.

Community activist Hilary Emmer announced last week that she will campaign for the first time, raising money for both the dental van and a new medical voucher program. Tim Johnson, head of the community council board, will fundraise for Vashon Community Care. And in an unorthodox but not unheard of move, two pets will run for mayor, collecting donations for the Vashon Island Pet Protectors.

Emmer has lived on Vashon a dozen years and been involved in several Island organizations. She played a lead role in increasing the number of visits by the Medical Teams International dental van and adding children at Chautauqua Elementary School to its client base. The van, which provides dental care to those who can’t afford it, is sponsored by the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness (IFCH). Emmer hopes to raise $5,000 for IFCH to continue bringing the service for both adults and children.

Emmer also hopes to raise $5,000 for Vashon Youth & Family Services (VYFS) to begin a new medical voucher program. She said the program would be similar to the Granny’s Attic one that currently provides funds for low-income Islanders to use at the Vashon Health Center. The VYFS vouchers, she said, could be used at multiple providers, including specialists.

“I want my running to provide seed money for a new program for this to happen and hopefully we can generate more donations over the years,” Emmer said. “I’d love everyone on this island to have access to the medical care they need.”

Tim Johnson has only lived on Vashon a couple years but calls himself a “compulsive joiner.” He is currently the president of the community council board and director of Granny’s Attic. Johnson said he decided to run for unofficial mayor in support of Vashon Community Care (VCC) after hearing of the center’s financial struggles and how it doesn’t turn anyone away for inability to pay.

“They struggle to make ends meet,” he said.

Johnson hopes to raise at least $7,000 for VCC and plans to run a fun and lively campaign, perhaps even with attack ads.

“I don’t care about winning or losing. I just care about raising money,” he said.

Geoff Fletcher, president of the Vashon Island Pet Protectors (VIPP), said he believes this is the first year a candidate has campaigned for VIPP. Flag and Arti, a female dog and cat who are both up for adoption, will take up the position together.

“We thought, ‘What better symbol for the pet protectors?’” he said.

Flag is a 13-year-old mixed breed who is energetic and playful despite having only three legs. Arti is a 9-year-old cat with long, dark hair who was given to VIPP in 2009 has become sort of the unofficial spokescat for the shelter, Fletcher said.

Donations to the animals’ mayoral campaign will go to VIPP’s adoption program as well as its spay and neuter program. Fletcher said Islanders would likely see Flag out around town campaigning, especially at the Farmers Market. Arti, however, will do more behind-the-scenes work.

Fletcher said he hoped the spokesanimals would not just raise money for VIPP, but also draw attention to what VIPP does.

“People can see ... Arti and Flag — that that’s what we’re about as an organization,” he said.

Last year the Washington State Fairies won the unofficial mayor post, raising money for the Vashon Island Public Schools Foundation. Winners in past years have raised up to $15,000 for their charitues,

Debi Richards, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said it’s not too late for Islanders to throw in their name for the race. Candidates typically begin campaigning by late June, she said, with donation boxes around the Island as well as personal appearances in town. Candidates will also ride in the Tom Stewart Memorial Car Parade during Strawberry Festival.

Fifteen percent of all the donations raised will go to the chamber, Richards said.


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