Monday, March 13, 2023

Mayor's mischevious videos create a following for Ala. town

Mayor Richard Phillips waving to constituents last month en route
to Oneonta City Hall. (Photo by Bob Miller, The Wall Street Journal)
Q: Will you come help me get these chickens out of the lobby?
A: What?
Q: Where do we buy our jellybeans?
A: What?

Those are just a couple of exchanges filmed by Mayor Richard Phillips from Oneonta, Alabama, population 7,000. "Mayor Phillips went viral with a series of TikTok videos suitably named 'Mayor Shenanigans,' reports Stu Woo of The Wall Street Journal. "In one of his first videos, in 2021, he stops by the office of Police Chief Charles Clifton and asks, 'Do we have a tank that I can drive?' The chief’s eyes bulge in surprise. 'Like with a cannon?' he asks."

Oneonta is the seat of
Blount County. (Wikipedia)
"Phillips posted the first video early one morning and hopped in the shower," Woo reports. Phillips told him, "I wanted to make City Hall seem like more than just a place to pay a parking ticket. . . . I figured, like, nine people would see it. When I came out [of the shower], it went from two views to, like, 400,000." So far it has more than 9 million views.

Woo writes, "TikTok users took a liking to the mayor’s farcical requests and the earnest, unguarded responses of his staff. A relaxed Alabama drawl adds local color. . . . Oneonta’s TikTok account now has 117,000 followers." People have driven far and wide to get their photos taken with Phillips. "'This has got to be a joke,' the mayor recalled thinking when he stood smiling alongside a TikTok-inspired visitor," Woo adds. "The woman drove two hours from Georgia to take a photo with him in Oneonta (ON-e-on-tuh). He has since used his celebrity to try to draw attention to local tourist attractions. . . . The Oneonta police and fire departments are trying to piggyback on the city’s TikTok fame to recruit job applicants."

At a time when the federal government is considering banning TikTok, the City of Oneonta is not worried. Chief Clifton, told Woo, “What’s the Chinese government seeing from the Oneonta police department that’s going to help them?”

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