Who governs Mackinac Island? America’s longest-serving mayor

Few places have experienced the continuity of leadership that Mackinac Island has enjoyed over the past half-century. It was way back in 1975 that Margaret Doud was first elected mayor of Mackinac Island. Now, five decades later, Doud is the longest-serving mayor in America.

Worldwide, only a few leaders have been in office longer than Doud, and they’re mostly kings or queens in countries that have monarchies. You might say that makes Doud royalty. And, in fact, she once was crowned Mackinac Island Lilac Queen!

But even Doud’s lengthy tenure is only a blink of an eye when it comes to the history of her family on Mackinac Island. The Doud name has been a staple on Mackinac Island for generations:

Windermere Hotel on Michigan’s Mackinac Island is owned by Margaret Doud, who has been mayor for nearly a half-century.

The Doud Family Legacy on Mackinac Island

Margaret’s great-grandfather Stephen O’Doud arrived on Mackinac Island to escape the potato famine in his native Ireland in the 1830s, more than a century before she was even born! Since then, the Doud family has made major impacts on the development of Mackinac Island into a booming travel destination:

  • Margaret’s grandpa, James Doud, and her great-uncle, Patrick Doud, started Doud’s Market, which remains in business today as the oldest grocery store in America.
  • Margaret’s father, Robert Doud, served as mayor of Mackinac Island in 1939 and 1940 and also was superintendent of Mackinac Island State Park, which originally was America’s second national park.

How Irish immigrants have made a lasting impact on Mackinac Island

Things certainly have changed on Mackinac Island through the centuries. But part of the charm is that much of the island stays the same. For the past 200 years the Doud family has been prominent on Mackinac Island, including the past five decades with Margaret Doud in the mayor’s seat.

For details on Mayor Doud’s roles and responsibilities on Mackinac Island, read on for a fascinating overview of how the American system of government works in the USA’s Best Summer Travel Destination.

Margaret Doud has been mayor of Mackinac Island since 1975

Does Mayor Doud Run Mackinac Island?

Well, yes and no. Mackinac Island is an interesting case study. Here are some things to know about how government works on Mackinac Island:

Mackinac Island isn’t only an island. It’s also a city. The world-renowned travel destination attracts over 1 million visitors each year, but many people on vacation might not realize that about 500 people live on Mackinac Island year-round. And just like where you live, there’s a local government that’s in charge. Like many local governments, the city of Mackinac Island provides water and sewer service, fire protection and police response. It inspects buildings to make sure they’re safe, maintains parks for community recreation and operates a library. Plus, it’s the city that pays to clean horse manure off Mackinac Island streets in the summer. Doud oversees all of that along with six other members of the Mackinac Island City Council. But in a sense, the residents are the real bosses of Mackinac Island because Doud is answerable to them in a city election held each and every spring.

Emergency services on Mackinac Island

The city is only part of Mackinac Island. In fact, Mackinac Island State Park makes up more than 80% of the island. The state park is overseen by Mackinac State Historic Parks, which is part of state government. So, when it comes to who’s in charge of iconic Mackinac Island treasures such as Arch Rock and Sugar Loaf, it’s actually the state, not the city. The state operates the Michigan Governor’s Summer Residence on Mackinac Island, too.

5 things you have to see in Michigan’s original national park

Before it became the country’s first “state park” in 1895, Mackinac Island State Park was actually a national park with oversight by Congress. The park includes Fort Mackinac, which was a military outpost for the federal government back in the 1800s. At that time it was the president, the nation’s commander-in-chief, who was really in charge of Mackinac Island. And, actually, before the Revolutionary War, the fort was built and occupied by the British, so at one time the king of England was boss of Mackinac Island!

Things to do at Mackinac Island’s historic Fort Mackinac

Although Fort Mackinac no longer is a U.S. military stronghold, the federal government still plays a role on car-free Mackinac Island. After all, you can’t get to Mackinac Island without going by ferry boat across the Straits of Mackinac or by flying into Mackinac Island Airport. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Federal Aviation Authority oversee both of those forms of transportation to make sure you can arrive safely.

Infographic with timeline of significant moments in the lives of women who have helped shape Mackinac Island

So, if you’re looking for fun trivia about long-tenured leaders, keep Margaret Doud in mind. And for a first-hand civics lesson in how local, state and federal government works together to maintain an amazing vacation destination, come visit Mackinac Island yourself!


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