Waynesville resident Taylor Duncan is a young home-schooled girl who is involved in an ambitious school project.
Duncan, 5, is on a mission to eat ice cream with every mayor in Missouri. She was in Houston last Friday and sat down with Mayor Don Tottingham to enjoy some frozen treats and engage in conversation at Betty’s On Grand downtown.
“You’re No. 113,” Taylor said.
About 70 of those were met all at once at a recent mayors conference in Branson. There are 114 counties in Missouri more than 900 mayors.
Taylor’s mother, Therese Duncan, realizes that’s a daunting total.
“We’re trying to meet at least one from every county,” she said, “because there are a lot of mayors.”
Also at the gathering were Houston City Administrator Tona Bowen and Tottingham’s wife, Ann. Bowen and Tottingham presented the special guest a couple of Houston-oriented gifts.
Taylor said her favorite ice cream flavor is cotton candy orange sherbet. She is in the process of learning to play piano, violin and recorder.
“My favorite is piano,” she said.
The project began in August and was launched with one basic goal.
“To learn about the state,” Taylor said. “My favorite part is talking to the mayors. Well, sometimes the ice cream.”
Therese said the idea was all her daughter’s.
“This is definitely Tay,” she said with a laugh. “It’s part of a year-long school project, and at her age it’s better to experience things as she learns. She loves going to all the cities, and she actually is learning a lot of facts about Missouri, not just eating ice cream.”
On the same day, Taylor met with mayors in Licking and Summersville. She asked Tottingham several questions, some of which made him smile and think.
“What does your town do for nature?” she said.
“Well, a few years ago there was a project where we planted lots of new trees in a park,” Tottingham said.
“What’s the best thing about the city?” Duncan said.
“The people,” Tottingham said.
Taylor’s travels have included a stop in Jefferson City, where she had ice cream not only with Mayor Carrie Tergin, but also Missouri Gov. Mike Parson. The “ice cream summit” with Parson included a tour of the governor’s mansion and state Capitol.
“The mansion was huge,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s saga has caught the attention of multiple national media sources from coast to coast, including the New York Times, Seattle Times and ABC News. Not surprisingly, no mayor has turned down her request so far.