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Copperopolis, Calif.
Copper Gold

Dog ‘mayor’ puts small town on the map

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Copper, a fluffy, white English cream golden retriever, is the mayor of Copper Valley, a community in Copperopolis—that is, at least, according to 1,800 people who cast their vote via text, online or paper ballot.

It’s no mystery why many consider the pup a worthy candidate for an honorary mayoral seat in the unincorporated town of roughly 4,300. Besides his affable and constant presence within the community, Copper might be considered the famous resident of Copperopolis.

His videos on TikTok have amassed tens-of-millions of views, and some 130,000 followers keep up with his daily outings and mayoral campaign from distant corners of the world.

The love affair is mutual, as Copper didn’t always live in his namesake town. The 6-year-old dog began his life in Carmel as the rather ordinary family pet of Mike Fletcher, a real estate developer who, with others, purchased thousands of acres in Copperopolis in 2018, including the town’s golf course and iconic square.

Under the ownership of previous developers, the collection of properties now rebranded as Copper Valley saw periods of growth and subsequent deadlock, most recently during the Great Recession. Drawing new interest to Copperopolis, particularly from nearby metropolises like the Bay Area, has always been the primary goal of developers. Fletcher, his developer partner, Tom Hix, and the other co-owners of Copper Valley LLC are no exception.

So far, their efforts have included the unveiling of the brand-new Gateway Hotel in the town square, as well as a focused marketing campaign for Copper Valley, spearheaded by Fletcher’s daughter, Katelyn, and her company, Klearcut Media.

“(Copper) is the sweetest dog, the epitome of what someone should be like living in Copperopolis and what they experience,” Katelyn Fletcher said about Copper’s laid-back and loveable demeanor.

People, no matter where they are, seem to enjoy watching the dog take pictures with fans at the town square and greet visitors at the hotel and at his self-named ice cream parlor, where a giant photo of his face wearing sunglasses graces the storefront. A recent TikTok of Copper watching the sunset at the Copper Valley golf club went viral with 10 million views.

“I heard about Copperopolis from a friend in college, but I kind of didn’t believe it existed until I came across a video of Copper on TikTok,” said Cate Dorigan, 26, who lives in Washington, D.C. “He’s very popular on there. I still get videos of him on my page, updating me on his run for mayor.”

According to Fletcher, Copper has drawn new visitors to Copper Valley who hope to snap a photo with the town’s mascot. But for some longtime residents of the golf course community who don’t use TikTok, Copper is just another pup.

Jeanette Alton and her husband, Adrian, have lived in the area for 17 years. She said she once met Copper during an event at the golf club, that the dog was “very friendly” and received attention well.

An animal lover, Alton says any dog would be a worthy mayor of Copper Valley, though Copper is “darling.”

Alton added that she has noticed an influx of residents moving to Copper Valley and that the community seems “busier” as of late, though she isn’t convinced that it’s due to a single, furry factor.

“I don’t know if Copper has anything to do with it, but I think he’d be happy about it if he knew about it,” Alton said.

Correction: A previous version of this article erroneously stated that Copper is the honorary mayor of Copperopolis, when, in fact, he is the honorary mayor of Copper Valley, a community in Copperopolis. 

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Dakota graduated from Bret Harte in 2013 and went to Davidson College, NC where she earned a bachelor's degree in Arab studies. After spending time studying in the Middle East and Europe, she is happy to be home, writing about the community she loves.

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