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The Town That Banned Satan 

A Visit to Inglis, Florida

Page 4 of 6

Fortunately, the ol' boys at D&D Bait were a little more forthcoming. The owner, Dan Cummings, explained why not too many people would care to talk about the proclamation.

"When it first came out, there was some discussion in town," he said. "But people in this area are going about their own thing. It's kind of a non-story to us; I think it's a bigger story everywhere else than it is in town."

As to whether Risher was within her rights to issue the proclamation, Cummings said, "I think it's a lot of blowup over nothing. I'm a Christian myself, but I don't really know whether what she did was right or not."

"She's a loony tune," added a store patron, who preferred to be called, "just Joe."

Cummings added that "just Joe" is one of the best local fisherman in the area. "Joe doesn't think she had a right to say (the proclamation)," said Cummings. "But I think the response of the vast majority of people around here is, 'Who cares?'"

Back at Town Hall, I almost bumped into a petite, well-dressed woman in her early 60s who swept the floor just inside the doorway. I wiped my feet on the doormat.

"You'd better wipe your feet," said the woman, smiling. "I hate this sand people track in here."

"Mayor Risher?" I asked.

"That's me," said the woman with the broom as she swept me into her office, where a collection of Elvis memorabilia hangs on the wall behind her desk. Elvis and Jesus share the rest of the office wall and shelf space with photos of family and friends. Risher was born a block from the city limits and has lived her entire 61 years in or near Inglis. Except for "a couple of years, when I was Baptist, I've been Church of God all my life," she said. "And I am just as active in church as I am as mayor." Her father was a county commissioner "for many years," she said. "I used to go with him to rallies, handing out cards and asking people to vote for him." After her five kids "were all grown and gone," said Risher, "I decided it was time to do something for my town." She ran twice for commissioner, getting defeated each time. "But I'm a fighter, and the third time I got the highest vote."

She served one term as commissioner, was re-elected and then decided to run for mayor. "I ran unopposed," she said. She continued to run unopposed for each of her five terms in the office because, Risher says, "In my heart I feel people have been very satisfied with how I've handled the position. They see me working every day, and I believe they feel I'm a good, moral person."

As is typical of such tiny towns, Inglis' mayor works hard for very little money. "I make $350 month," she said, chuckling. "I didn't run for the money; I figured out once that for the time I spend, I make about 45 cents an hour.

"I've been on live talk shows with London, England, and Anchorage, Alaska," Risher gushed. "Channel 8 and 13, Tampa radio, and Harper's magazine interviewed me. I've been on the radio in Oklahoma City, Fort Worth, and Detroit, on Fox 35 TV and radio stations in Massachusetts; Austin and San Antonio, Texas; Seattle, Washington. And New York."

I wondered how she felt about her interview with The Daily Show.

"I was a little upset at The Daily Show," she said. Apparently, the show's team let Risher assume it was just another news show from New York, although while the cameras were rolling, someone tipped off her pastor that the "news" show is really satirical.

"They left out the comedy part until we pressured them," said Risher. When the crew asked her to let them film over her shoulder as she read passages from the Bible, she refused. "I looked (Steven Correll) in the eye and said, 'Steve, this isn't a comedy. I won't let you mock God and use me as an instrument to lampoon God's word.' That more or less ended the interview."

"I hear after they left here, they had someone dressed up in a Satan costume," she said ruefully. "They were paying people $20 to come up and tell him to leave town."

Risher agreed that most of the media have treated her well, however. "I was a willing vessel," she said. "Any time you tell someone what God has put on your heart to do, it makes you feel good that God gets that recognition."

Some interviewers had even suggested other mayors should take a similar stand, and Risher agrees. "Our currency says 'In God we trust'; and our nation was founded on biblical principles," said Risher. "I think we should encourage other legislators to take the nation back for God. I'm asking God for a worldwide revival to bring people together -- to stand as one against the evil that causes all these bad things in the world, to love one another and to raise our kids in a Godly atmosphere."

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