Move over, Pope Francis. Tuffy the Clown is about to be Sedalia's 2013 person of the year.
KIX 105.7 FM Morning DJ Rob Edwards in Sedalia was inspired by Time's annual tribute to an influential newsmaker to design a similar award for the person who's made the biggest impact on the town.
"This isn't the nice-guy of Sedalia award," says Sam Schleicher, digital managing editor at 105.7 FM. "This is the person that has the biggest impact on the town."
After a Barack Obama mask at the Missouri State Fair rodeo last summer drew national ire (and media attention), it's hard to argue that anyone had more impact on Sedalia than rodeo clown Thomas Gessling, a.k.a. Tuffy the Clown.
"Tuffy really thrust Sedalia into the national spotlight, for better or for worse," Schleicher says. "He made a huge impact and got national coverage. He definitely deserves a spot on there."
So far, Gessling is winning in a landslide. As of Thursday, he has 47 percent of the vote in a seven-man race.
If anyone can beat Gessling, it's the Sedalia STING unit, the city's elite drug-busting squad. Schleicher says they're in the news with a new meth or cocaine bust every other week, and last month, the joined federal agencies to arrest members of a $1 million crack, cocaine and guns ring. The unit brought in so much money recently that the department bought a new K-9 unit.
For a town without a major sports franchise, the STING unit is the closest thing Sedalia has to a hometown team worth rooting for. The radio station once considered making foam fingers to rally for the STING unit, replacing the giant "We're No. 1" gesture with two foam hands in handcuffs.
Gessling also has to beat Clean Air Sedalia, which advocated for the controversial new smoking ban, and Larry Stevenson, the erratic city council member Schleicher describes as "bat-shit crazy."
But nobody is bringing in the votes like Tuffy the clown.
The winner of Sedalia's Person of the Year title will probably win a plaque or trophy -- the radio station hasn't decided yet.
"To be completely honest, we just kind of pulled the trigger on this thing to see what would happen," says Schleicher. "There's no real reward at all. We just wanted to see how it would go down. We wanted to gauge what people thought was important this year."
And Tuffy the clown was certainly important.
"People either love him or hate him," says Schleicher.
Vote on the 105.7 FM website once per day for choice for Sedalia's person of the year.