Rosella Sonsteby last ran for Andover's mayoral seat 10 years ago, when she was 82. An original maverick, she's campaigning again for mayor -- for the fourth time, but with a brand new concern.
"Suppose I win?" she asked. "What would I do then?"
Ten years ago, she received nearly 2,500 votes -- about 26 percent of the ballots cast. And now, at 92, and after 39 years in local politics, Sonsteby sounds like she's just getting started.
"Around here, it's not what you know, but who you know -- and I can't stand it," she said.
Sonsteby ran for Anoka County commissioner two years ago but lost in the primary to, among others, eventual winner Dennis Berg, the popular County Board chairman. Her ire over a proposed Vikings stadium in Blaine had her running then. The stadium in Anoka County now seems ancient history, but Sonsteby has other unfinished business to ponder.
"I meant business then and I mean business this time," she said. "There's one big clique here running things and I aim to shake things up."
She's one of four candidates for mayor that include Eric Kohnke, 36; Richard Kulkey, 63, and incumbent Mike Gamache, 49.
Presumably, the other three candidates hope to win. For Sonsteby, the trail leading to election day is more important than the mayor's seat itself.
Signs of the times
And what a long, strange trip it's been. A dairy farmer, land developer and real-estate broker for 50 years, Sonsteby doesn't plan to circulate leaflets, go door to door or put a sign on her own lawn, much less anyone else's. Not necessary, she says. People know what she stands for. And after observing five generations, she's convinced that her way is the right way.
You wanna argue with her?
"I talked to the League of Women Voters, told 'em I was runnin' for mayor and that's that," she said. "I told them I was tired of seeing people being taxed unfairly, tired of people who don't know what they're talking about making decisions about someone else's property.
"So this time I mean business. And that could be a problem because I don't want to play dumb anymore, and I'm healthy, and I know what's happening and ...
" ... I don't want to win.
"If I do, you bet your life I'll shake things up. Nothing will go on behind closed doors, you can be sure of that. I'm not afraid of anything or anybody. I'm 92. What do I have to be afraid of?"
Bought the farm 64 years ago
Born in Mandan, N.D., she moved with her family to the western Minnesota community of Frazee when she was an infant, and eventually to Wadena, in central Minnesota. She bought her farm in Anoka County in 1944.
A political independent, she's had only two heroes all these years: her parents. They slept in a wagon to make ends meet. They dug their own well. Her mother stitched together clothes for the entire family.
Widowed for three decades, she has 10 children and says she lost count of the number of her grandchildren years ago.
She's not crazy about youngsters like John McCain or Barack Obama, but she's hoping Ron Paul will make a comeback in this presidential election.
As for the mayor's race in Andover?
"When I ran two years ago [for county commissioner], a lot of people told me afterwards that they'd thought about voting for me," she said. "If they do, I'm ready for it. I'm not saying I want the job. I just want to get my point across."
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419