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M-PHS grad receives key to the city for stint on 'Survivor'

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring, left, presents a key to the city to
Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring, left, presents a key to the city to 'Survivor' contestant Michael Jefferson, a 2000 graduate of Marysville-Pilchuck High School, on April 23.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

MARYSVILLE — Michael Jefferson was no stranger to fame after he was selected to represent Washington state in Cosmopolitan's list of the 50 most eligible bachelors in America two years ago, but even after finding a girlfriend, the 2000 graduate of Marysville-Pilchuck High School was able to put Marysville on the map again when he was selected for the 24th season of CBS's "Survivor" TV series, which is currently airing.

After Jefferson became the eighth cast member of the season to get voted off the show, which took him out of the running for the $1 million prize but made him eligible to serve as one of the judges for the final contestants, the 30-year-old banker expressed the hope that he might receive a key to the city of Marysville.

Marysville City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Vaughan, a loyal viewer of "Survivor," had seen Jefferson on the show and heard of his quote, so he contacted Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring about making Jefferson's dream come true.

On Monday, April 23, Nehring presented Jefferson with a key to the city, after clearing up some confusion at home about it.

"My kids really like the show, so I told them about tonight's ceremony," Nehring said at the April 23 Marysville City Council meeting. "My son asked, 'So does that mean that he can just walk around town and get into anyone's house with that key?'"

City of Marysville Parks and Recreation Director Jim Ballew conducted an impromptu presentation of his own, following Nehring by handing over Jefferson's ID card from when he'd worked in the city's Parks and Recreation Department, as part of its after school activities programs for young people.

"If you're willing, we're ready to start up 'Survivor Camp with Mike' this June," Ballew said, while also giving a tribal-pattern T-shirt to Jefferson in honor of his time on one of the two tribes on the show. Jefferson promised to try and wear the shirt during the finale, although he noted that the show's wardrobe department might have other ideas.

Nehring noted that it's not often that Marysville can boast of being the hometown of such a nationally well-known figure, and pointed out that Jefferson not only managed to be one of only 18 contestants on the show this season, but also managed to last to the halfway mark of the season.

"It's an amazing accomplishment just to get on a show like that," Nehring said. "Even without worrying about the voting, after I saw how physically exhausting it was for them to be there, after just five or six days, I'm not sure many of us could even survive 'Survivor,'" he laughed.

Nehring added that "Survivor" is the favorite show of Jefferson's mother, and described Jefferson himself as a hard worker and a persuasive, natural-born leader who, in Jefferson's own words, "knew when to keep my mouth shut."

"We're honored that you graduated from our high school and worked for our city, with all that you've accomplished since," Nehring said.

"This is an amazing thing," Jefferson said, once the key to the city was in his hands and he'd thanked those in attendance. "When you want something so bad and work so hard at it, it's really cool to see it happen."

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