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A political dynasty of boy-mayors emerges in Dorset

The ceremonial “mayor-by-lot” election brought a 3-year-old into office, and lots of publicity for the ailing town.

The tiny northern Minnesota resort town of Dorset, hurt last fall by the fire that destroyed its two of its four restaurants, got some much-needed positive attention this weekend with its annual ceremonial mayoral election.

Local and national news covered the story of 3-year-old James Tufts winning the drawing that makes him honorary mayor. Even better was the fact that his win signaled the emergence of a the political dynasty: his 5-year-old brother Robert, served two terms, from 2012-14. 

I’d been in town last summer and interviewed Robert at the end of his “term,” and realized how savvy the town had been to promote the annual election. (It’s actually a lottery: folks pay $1 to enter a name into the race, and the winner is drawn at random during the festival. The more names in the hat, the better your chance.)

Determined to recover from the fire, the town continued the election this year during its annual Taste of Dorset event, even getting much advance publicity for a promotion to elect the younger Tufts boy as mayor. And they got even more when he won.

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The city fathers — Dorset is not actually a city, or a town, but an unincorporated area with 25 or so actual residents who vote in Henrietta Township — continue to recognize that it’s a great way to promote their businesses.

The next question is whether James will be put up for reelection next year? With all the positive energy it will bring, I’m betting yes.

The Kempnich family owned both burned establishments, and in July said that the ruins had been cleared and the land was for sale. They hoped someone else would come in and build a restaurant on the property.

The family has equipped a food truck, called Companeros, which was at Sunday’s event and is frequently in town to provide food to visitors.