The mayor of Silverton, Oregon (population 9,540) is selling his own shoes to supplement his city’s budget. Mayor Stu Rasmussen has been a fixture in Silverton politics for 25 years but may be better known outside the Willamette Valley as the United States’ first openly transgender mayor since he was elected in November of 2008. Since then, he has been re-elected two times. Rasmussen, who once was quoted as saying, “I dress to thrill,” has a passion for shoes and has a pair “that go with every outfit.” Mayor Rasmussen explains that he has all-day shoes as well as eight-hour, two-hour, 30-minute, and ‘“come over here and look at my shoes’ shoes.” He is well-known locally for his great legs and shoes, with residents, visitors, and tourists routinely peppering him with “Love the shoes!” comments when he is out and about in Silverton.
The sixty-year-old mayor, who goes by his given name of Stu or, at times, Carla Fong, and who chooses not to ask people to use female pronouns when they refer to him, has put hundreds of women’s size 11 shoes from his massive personal collection up for sale. Many of them are on display at the Silverton Senior Center. One pair of Zigihoso leopard skin/floral/snakeskin platform heels is up for auction on eBay through a top-rated seller who describes herself as “the exclusive authorized eBay seller of ‘Mayor Stu Shoes.’” The starting bid is $10,000, and there are 23 days left in the auction. The eBay seller’s description makes it a point to say that the city is well-run, and until the economic downturn was providing the necessities and even “a few ‘frills’” for its residents. Rasmussen is a self-described social liberal and fiscal conservative, and, according to city manager Bill Willoughby, the city’s budget is healthy at $22.5 million, with $5.8 million going to the general fund. The proceeds from the shoes will go to help pay for the amenities, what Mayor Rasmussen calls the “fun things” and “the neat stuff” such as the city pool and the senior center, which has an annual operating cost of $35,000 per year.
It is Rasmussen’s hope that people will be interested in owning a small piece of LGBT political history. Rasmussen says that he guesses the “unique and creative and crazy thing” he did was to try, as the first openly transgender mayor in the U.S., to turn his surplus of shoes into historic collectibles. The city manager agreed that it was unprecedented, saying donations of land for cash and parks are common ways people help pay for community centers, but that a shoe sale is a first. The Mayor Stu Shoes exclusive eBay seller says that the shoes on offer present an opportunity to acquire a neo-historic artifact that is likely to increase in value over time. The shoes will include a photo of Mayor Stu wearing them as well as a signed, sealed, and notarized Certificate of Authenticity printed on City of Silverton/Office of the Mayor letterhead. As an added bonus, Mayor Rasmussen will participate in a photo op with the purchaser, free of charge. Elected officials cannot profit personally from public office, so whoever wins the auction will make a direct and tax-deductible contribution to the City of Silverton. A receipt from the City of Silverton will be issued, less the actual cash value of the shoes, which will be estimated at $6.99, the thrift store price of used shoes.
By Donna Westlund
Gay Star News