As mayor of Gambier and priest-in-charge at Harcourt Parish, respectively, it’s known that Leeman Kessler ’04 and Rachel Kessler ’04 are active in the Gambier and Kenyon communities. It’s less known that over the past year, the couple has developed massive followings on TikTok — a social media app used to create and share short, personal videos. Their respective accounts have over 150,000 followers combined — with 115,000 of them following Mayor Kessler — and that number is rapidly increasing.
The Kesslers both attended Kenyon, meeting at their first-year orientation. “We really are Lily and Marshall from How I Met Your Mother,” Mother Kessler said. After time away from Gambier, they finally returned in 2015 so Mother Kessler could assume her position as priest-in-charge of Harcourt Parish and work as chaplain at Kenyon.
Though Mayor and Mother Kessler are now posting regularly on TikTok, neither joined the app with any intention of gaining popularity. A Kenyon student created Mother Kessler’s account last year, but she only began posting on the account recently as a fun outlet to express hobbies, interests or whatever came to mind. “I like just being able to talk randomly about things off the top of my head, and I want to in a way that’s more energizing and interactive,” she said. Mayor Kessler created his account soon after Mother Kessler so he could interact with his wife on the app. “That was literally the reason why I wanted to be on the app, so I could leave snarky comments,” he said.
Before long, the pair had developed large followings. Mayor Kessler recently began posting videos centered around ominous and humorous Ohio lore, which pose more questions than they answer, and have made the account a viral sensation. Mayor Kessler also enjoys posting about his role as mayor of Gambier, his work as an actor and H.P. Lovecraft impersonator and his other interests, such as gaming and reading.
“I try to get people aware of local politics and interested in local politics, to teach about what it means to be mayor,” he said. “And for me, play is such a valuable way of interacting with people. I’m so excited to have found a sense of play that people resonate with.”
Mother Kessler’s account similarly expresses her eclectic taste in film, literature and everything in between, but most of her content encourages open discussions of faith and religion. She works to inspire dynamic conversations and provide a space for people to share their thoughts. “I’m not trying to convert anybody. I’m sharing my story, my experiences and letting people who come from fundamentalist backgrounds know that it’s actually okay to question,” she said.
The Kesslers agreed that what they enjoy most about the app is the sense of community they’ve found in sharing their interests and experiences. “I find that there are rich and fascinating conversations to be had on a platform like TikTok, and it gives a space for people who would not have a space to share those thoughts in other ways. I find that incredibly rewarding,” Mother Kessler said.
You can find Mayor Kessler on TikTok @mayorlovecraft and Mother Kessler @nerdypriest.