In Sunol, California, one politician stands above the rest.
That’s because he stood on four paws. Bosco Ramos, a Rottweiler and Black Labrador mix, became the mayor of Sunol in 1981, besting two human opponents to gain the lofty title. Officially, he became the first non-human mayor in the United States.
Mayor Ramos served for 13 years, appearing on game shows and providing occasional “interviews” to reporters along the way. When he passed away, the town memorialized him with a bronze statue.
Do town structures fall into disrepair with a dog as they mayor? Can corrupt officials bribe the city’s leader with a rawhide treat?
Not exactly. The city of Sunol named Bosco Ramos an honorary mayor while a human mayor fulfilled the actual duties of the office. In a word, Bosco was a publicity stunt.
Sunol residents say that two men, “Honest Paul” Zeiss and another person known as “Wolf,” sat at a local bar arguing one night. The subject: which of them could win the town’s mayorship.
Bosco’s original owner, Brad Leber, entered the fray, arguing that a dog could beat either man.
Given the small size of the city, Leber had no trouble organizing an “official” vote (despite the fact that the honorary office would be meaningless, regardless of the winner).
However, the candidates took the race seriously. Bosco’s campaign was especially effective, as he ran as a “Re-pup-lican,” according to the Mercury News. His official slogan was, “A bone in every dish, a cat in every tree, and a fire hydrant on every corner.”
“Everyone knew Bosco, so he just became a write-in candidate and he won all the votes,” one resident said. “It was pretty much a landslide.”
Eventually, Leber moved out of town.
Bosco stayed behind; Sunol didn’t want to give up the most popular mayor in town history.
Given his position, Bosco was allowed to roam freely through the town. He’d frequently stop into local bars, where he’d receive an ovation from admiring crowds of locals.
Tom Stillman became Bosco’s caretaker, although he insists that the dog belonged to the entire town.
“He was a fun-loving dog,” Stillman recalled, “He’d come home haggard, like he was out all day.”
But other locals recalled getting on the mayor’s bad side.
“He used to hang in all the bars and he used to growl at you if you didn’t feed him,” resident Sam McCracken said, noting that he’d voted for Bosco.
While Bosco’s mayorship was an obvious joke, it did cause some controversy.
The People’s Daily, a Chinese newspaper, cited the election as proof that democracy didn’t work.
Sunol residents downplayed the report, retorting that Bosco was “a symbol of democracy and freedom.” In any case, the dog was a boon for tourism, and locals seemed to appreciate the joke.
Sadly, Bosco passed away in 1994, ending his tenure. Several days before he passed, locals drove him around town one last time.
“He was the best mayor we ever had,” one resident said.