What was once a subtle joke by Burbank Mayor Will Rogers has become the community’s symbol of support for the elected official.
On Tuesday, about a dozen plastic flamingos of various sizes popped up in the planters at the back of City Hall in honor of Rogers, who announced last week he has been diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer and nonalcoholic cirrhosis.
The plan was devised by Burbank resident Jill Herbertson, who used to live in the same neighborhood as Rogers when he and his wife moved into the community more than 25 years ago. Herbertson said she always saw numerous flamingo lawn ornaments in Rogers’ frontyard and was curious about them.
“It was always a funny thing because the number of flamingos in their yard just kept growing bigger and bigger,” Herbertson said. “It was charming and funny. The thing about flamingos is they are a social bird, and that just fit so well with who Will is. It seemed like a good metaphor of Will flying into the neighborhood, into Burbank and now becoming the mayor because he just couldn’t help himself from being involved in community activism.”
Not long after the mayor’s announcement last Wednesday, Herbertson contacted the other council members to ask if it was OK for her and others to place some flamingos around City Hall as a tribute to Rogers.
She said she received the green light from the city and began placing the pink birds in planters around the building. Herbertson said that a few were placed along the Olive Avenue side of the building, but they disappeared shortly after.
“We did drop some off at the front of the building, but people took them away,” Herbertson said.
Rogers said on Thursday he had no idea the flamboyance of flamingos was in honor of him and thought they were just a collection of cute ornaments.
“When I walked into the building [on Tuesday], the first thing I thought was, ‘Isn’t that cute? Somebody’s dressed up the whole little garden area,’” Rogers said.
The mayor said he and his wife started putting flamingos in their frontyard just because they thought it was something funny to do.
“That’s just all it is,” Rogers said. “We just thought they were funny.”
Herbertson and her family moved out of Rogers’ neighborhood about 10 years ago and it had been some time since she had caught up with him. After hearing about his condition, Herbertson said she was compelled to do something to show support for an old friend.
Rogers said he deeply appreciates the support and attention that Herbertson and the community have shown him. However, he added that he asks residents and friends to give back to various health organizations by giving blood or signing up to be an organ donor.
“You can do so many incredible things if you just line up for them,” Rogers said. “For anyone that’s concerned about not knowing where to go, you get to the first door and somebody will always point you to the next one.”