“Allegations” of illicit narcotics abuse directed at the mayor of a small Pierce County town turned into a charity event with a wink and a grammar lesson earlier this month.
Orting Mayor Josh Penner learned several weeks ago that graffiti had been spray painted on a local house, reading “Mayor Penner is on heron.”
“A thought bubble appeared above my head. That because they misspelled [heroin] as ‘heron,’ like the bird, we could run with that. And so that’s what we did,” Mayor Penner told KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show.
That thought bubble culminated in a challenge, posted on social media, to create the best picture of the mayor riding a heron. The winner would receive a gift certificate to the local Route 66 Pizzeria.
“There were some that were a little sketchy,” Penner said about the drawings. “But the response was pretty overwhelming. Just people sharing their amazing photoshop skills of pictures of me, riding birds all over the place.”
The mayor took one of the best submissions and turned it into merchandise, shirts, and masks. He was able to sell several hundred dollars worth, donating the proceeds to the Orting Food Bank. In the process, he took “some of this deviant behavior and turned it into lemonade, as you will.”
The graffiti was removed, but returned weeks later, this time with that pesky “i.”
“Thankfully, they spelled heroin the correct way this time,” Penner said. “So I like to think that 20 years from now, when they go to spell the word heroin, they’re going to remember this incident, because that’s how they learned how to spell heroin, which is a teachable moment. They were able to learn more in a week than in 13 years of primary education.”