Sauk Rapids | On The Trail for Truth

On March 15, 2019, I started to reach out to my Sauk Rapids city council members and the Sauk Rapids mayor. I left a voice mail with Nick Sauer in the evening. After years of canvassing and phone banking with the DFL, I was well aware of the call before 8:30 p.m. rule (and for door knocks make sure you’re done before the sun has set!). The voice mail was left at 7:45 p.m. I started the outreach journey with Nick because we have established a loose rapport over the years. He works at Beaver Island part-time and is an all around nice person. Last we spoke he wasn’t going to seek re-election for the Sauk Rapids city council. That concerned me.

On March 29, 2019 (after our community press workshop) I decided to make some more telephone calls. Betsy O’Berry’s voice rang in my mind, “You have to call people. Letters and emails just don’t cut it.”. The time was 7:15 p.m. - no one answers their phone if it’s an unknown number these days. I don’t know why, but that’s another Op-Ed piece entirely. I left voice mails with the remaining three council members (Ellering, Seamans, Thronson) and, of course, Mayor Hunstiger.

In early April, I began to receive some calls back. Mayor Hunstiger left voice mail messages, we played some phone tag.; he referred me to his recently made State of the City address, which he gave to the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce. Do we still have a Sauk Rapids Chamber of Commerce? A quick Google search shows this; but there is no mention of our fair city of Sauk Rapids. Change happens fast these days.

After a few rounds of voice mails – crickets were heard chirping. Now don’t get me wrong... I like Mayor Hunstiger (as a person). I met him while door knocking one Summer day. He was running for mayor and told me about how some neighborhood kids had been stealing his lawn signs. Sure, blame it on the kids I thought. Maybe it wasn’t Guy Konietzko or his friends? Why would they do such a thing? Damn punk kids! Both 2016 Sauk Rapids mayor candidates were (I’m pretty sure) GOP allies.

Council members Ellering and Thronson were just elected in 2018. It’s possible that they called, but I didn’t receive a voice mail from either of them. I did see some odd numbers on my caller ID but who knows who that could have been. Not great constituent service. Sad.

Ms. Seamans was recently appointed to the City Council. I wrote her an email to follow up because (as I recall) I don’t think I was able to leave a voice mail. Maybe it was a home phone without an answering machine? I like her style already if that’s the case. She wrote:

“I am far too novice to participate in an interview at this time. Thank you for asking. ~Dottie”

So nothing. Except for my work with Natasha and the Sauk Rapids Herald... I had spotted a bold weekly op-ed column in our local weekly featuring none other than Rep. Shane Mekeland. I asked our local editor Natasha about this. She said that it was a concern that was also brought up to her by her colleges. This was likely something that was a holdover from the days when Rollie owned the Sauk Rapids Herald. (Rollie was about as Red as they come). I used the power of logic and pleaded for journalistic integrity. The good news is – There hasn’t been a weekly column by a partisan elected official published since! Now there’s some good news.

Michael Willemsen