While on the Farmington City Council, Doug Bonar didn’t just casually glance at the week’s agenda. He arrived for meetings after researching every item and devising several ways to approach each one, from budget concerns to beekeeping.
“He did not do anything that wasn’t 100 percent or more,” said his wife, Laura. “You didn’t just come forward with a problem — you should probably come forward with three options [to solve it].”
Bonar, who according to colleagues had a contagious passion for civic issues, died of lung cancer Jan. 9 at United Hospital in St. Paul. He was 61.
Bonar was born in Hanover, Ill., the oldest of four children and the son of an Illinois State Police officer. He attended college briefly after high school and left to take a job, but later received his degree from Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa.
Bonar moved to Minnesota to take a groundskeeping job and eventually began working for Farmington Area Public Schools as building and grounds director. After a stint at an architectural firm, he became the sites and grounds director for the Anoka-Hennepin School District.
Partly because of his work, his wife said, he developed a strong interest in green energy and conservation. After serving for several years on Farmington’s Planning Commission and Economic Development Authority, he won a seat on the City Council in 2012.
Former Council Member Jason Bartholomay said that Bonar helped him learn about city issues and how to work on the council when he first took office. The two became fast friends, and Bartholomay described him as “wickedly smart,” funny and direct, a “big teddy bear” who would give others the shirt off his back.
“He cared deeply about the residents of Farmington,” Bartholomay said.
Bonar’s fiscal smarts helped get Farmington’s budget on track when the city was near bankruptcy a few years ago. And his collaborative nature helped bring the city and school district together at a contentious time, following a lawsuit the district had filed against the city over the location of the high school.
“The relationship was just awful,” Bartholomay said. Bonar, he said, reminded the parties that they needed “to be civil … talk to each other and form relationships.”
Bonar spearheaded a committee to get city and school leaders working together and began scheduling an annual joint meeting of the school board and City Council. He helped turn around the city’s low-performing municipal liquor stores, Bartholomay said, and enabled residents to keep bees and backyard chickens.
Bonar was defeated for re-election in 2016, but he offered to answer any questions that the new council member, Robyn Craig, might have. “I just thought that was so gracious of him,” Craig said. “I really respected him a lot.”
Bonar was an avid reader and loved going to concerts with his wife. They both relished motorcycle rides on his Excelsior-Henderson Super X.
Bonar, who had beat prostate cancer a decade ago, learned of his lung cancer in December. “We’ll take care of it and then I’ll get back to normal,” he told his wife. But the cancer proved to be at an advanced stage.
In addition to his wife, Bonar is survived by his daughter, Natalie Bermudez of San Antonio; sons Chance of Cambridge, Mass., and Ian of Farmington; mother, Elouise, of Hanover; brothers Greg of Thailand and Todd of Summerville, S.C.; and sister Lori Peterson of Pecatonica, Ill. An open house to celebrate Bonar’s life is planned for 1 to 4 p.m. on March 23 at the Rambling River Center, 325 Oak St., Farmington.