Who should be Sedalia’s ‘Person of the Year?’

By Travis McMullen Contributing Columnist

December 29, 2013

The good people at the newsmagazine Time have always stressed one point regarding their annual selection of the “Person of the Year”: that it was awarded to“the person who most influenced the news each year, for better or worse.” Yes, the familiar red rimmed magazine that you’ll find at least one issue of in the waiting room of every medical facility in America has carved out a niche as the organization that officially gets to decide who dominated the media landscape.
Kings, presidents, popes, dictators, scientists, inanimate objects, planets, aviators and website founders have all been recognized as Time’s Person of the Year. Hitler, Churchill, Putin, Bush, Clinton, Ghandi and Stalin are just some of the people on the list. It’s not about being good, or right, or wrong — it’s about demanding attention.
Recently, a local radio station held an arbitrary online vote to determine Sedalia’s person of the year. They spent a short time gathering nominees and ended up with a pretty reasonable set of nominees: Clean Air Sedalia, Dale Malone, Harry Hoffert, Kevin Walker, Councilman Larry Stevenson, the Sedalia Sting Unit and Tuffy Gessling. Yeah, a couple of those aren’t people at all but Time has chosen even more vague groups as their person of the year: U.S. scientists, The Inheritor, and The Protestor among them, so there’s plenty of precedent to fight the strange, “There isn’t any person named Clean Air Sedalia!” complaints.
And the outside media caught wind of all this and drew the same erroneous conclusion that people draw about the “Time Person of the Year” designation: that by recognizing these person as influential that we’re supporting the things they’ve said or done. They latched onto the fact that the infamous Obama Mask Rodeo Clown, Tuffy Gessling, was among the finalists. They responded as though we were finalizing plans to make him mayor for life because of his clearly heroic presidential jabs. Those Sedalians have done it again!
Even though there are thousands of people who make fun of the president daily and it wouldn’t be hard to argue that the rodeo announcer that evening was pushing the anti-Obama rhetoric even harder than the man who was actually wearing the mask.
This brought visitors from all over the Internet to our humble local radio website, and most of them came to vote for Tuffy Gessling. The dastardly president will surely know about the folly of his ways when the people of a town he rarely considers makes his eternal rodeo clown foe our person of the year.
I saw people whose profiles clearly indicated they didn’t live anywhere near Sedalia proudly stating their intention to vote for Tuffy. I don’t know who any of those other people are, or what a “Sedalia” is, but I’ve got rhetoric to push!
Yes, I know Tuffy was doing well in the polling before the Internet flooded in and I know he very well could have won without them — but probably not by more than 70 percent. If “Sedalia Person of the Year” is best decided democratically, than I think it should only be decided by Sedalians. Of course, this is impossible: any additional measures to make sure the respondents were local would probably complicate the process enough to turn many away from voting at all. Almost every Internet poll, no matter how local and relatively insignificant, can be privy to the whims of the Internet. They’ll do it to push their viewpoint, or they’ll collectively vote for the funniest option for the sake of entertainment.
Gessling won in an Internet-fueled landslide, which left some scratching their head because they were stuck in the mindset that the designation was secretly some sort of honor.
There are two different ways to define a Sedalia newsmaker: the person (or group) that took up the most space in the local media or the Sedalia-associated person that made the most national headlines: making news in Sedalia vs. making news about Sedalia.
If the award was about making news in Sedalia it should have probably went to the Sedalia Sting Unit, or Clean Air Sedalia or eccentric local councilperson Larry Stevenson, but if it went to the person who made news about Sedalia then it would definitely have to go to Tuffy Gessling. He was definitely the latest figure to remind the rest of the world that Sedalia did indeed still exist. That one Smith-Cotton band shirt would have been a shoo-in for the award, too.
Who do you think should have been “Sedalia’s Person of the Year”?