In a world seemingly packed with agenda-pushing politicians, one elected official has simpler goals. Parker, the four-year-old Bernese mountain dog famously known as the honorary mayor of Georgetown, is committed to bringing joy to the mountain enclave’s residents and visitors—in exchange for neck rubs.
With the help of his owner Dustin Schaefer, Mayor Parker the Snow Dog serves as the mascot of Loveland Ski Area and as Georgetown’s canine ambassador. The four-legged Instagram star, who has gained local and national news coverage for his roles, was voted in unanimously as the honorary mayor last February by the town’s board of selectmen (the chief executive body, similar to a city council).
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Lynette Kelsey, Georgetown’s police judge and official mayor, even administered the oath to Parker at an inauguration ceremony, which was attended by local law enforcement, residents, and fans. The canine’s duties include attending town events and mingling with patrons on walks around town. “Parker doesn’t do the hard work—that’s what the board of selectmen are for. He’s just here to supply the love and the hugs for the people who visit and live in Georgetown” says Schaefer, who manages the social media, group sales, and public relations at Loveland Ski Resort and adopted the Bernese mountain dog as an 11-month-old puppy.
Schaefer says Parker was inspired to run for office after meeting Mayor Max, a golden retriever known for a similar role in Idyllwild, California, on a road trip last year. “I saw how much love Max brought to the town of Idyllwild and that sparked the idea in my head,” he says. In fact, Max and Parker reunited in June at the first Dog Mayor Summit, where they discussed “love, hugs, and cookies.”
Parker also spends a lot of time greeting attendees at local Loveland Ski Area sales events and accompanying his owner on adventures—from skiing at the resort and attending Broncos game as VIP guests (they’re both big Von Miller fans) to embarking on a 5,300-mile road trip from California to Washington this past summer. But Schaefer says Parker’s most important job is as a therapy dog for Easterseals Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Village Camp in Empire—a recreational space used by more than 1,200 children and adults living with disabilities throughout the year. Parker hosts a fundraiser on his birthday every July to raise tuition for campers; last year, the event raised $6,000 via silent auctions and donations for three individuals to attend.
Is it hard to manage the schedule of such a big paw-litician (sorry, we couldn’t resist)? No, says Schaefer. He’s happy Parker brings attention to Georgetown and enjoys creating footage of the pup for local TV stations and social media. “It’s amazing the smiles you get for a dog and how much good he can do for the community,” he says. “That puts a smile on my face, too.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Easterseals summer camps were canceled this year, but Schaefer and Parker will still host a belated birthday fundraiser. Ring in the mayor’s fourth birthday at Parker Palooza on Saturday, October 3, at Rocky Mountain Village Camp (2644 Alvarado Road, Empire) with live music, beer from Guanella Pass Brewing Co. (try the Bernese Mountain Brown Ale), and bites from Sexy Pizza. The dog-friendly event is free to attend, but donations are encouraged; all proceeds go toward sending individuals living with disabilities to Easterseals camp.