Mayer, Watertown mayors will both step aside at end of terms

KJ McDonald
KJ McDonald
Chris Capaul
Chris Capaul

Filing for local elections came to a close last Tuesday, when residents of both Watertown and Mayer learned they will have a new mayor after the November elections.

Neither Mayer mayor Chris Capaul nor Watertown mayor K.J. McDonald filed for re-election. Capaul has served as Mayer’s mayor for the last six years, while McDonald has served more than four full terms as Mayor of Watertown in two separate stints separated by more than 30 years.

McDonald first was elected Mayor of Watertown in 1974, and he served in the position in 1975-76. He was then elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, where he served seven terms until 1990. Most recently, he has served as Watertown’s Mayor since October 2005, when he was appointed to the position to replace Steve Sarvi, who resigned when his National Guard unit was deployed. McDonald subsequently won re-election in 2006, 2008 and 2010.

McDonald was honored recently during a city council meeting in which roughly 100 community members and politicians read proclamations thanking him for his many years of service to his city, his state, and his country during the Korean War. McDonald, who has battled complications from a cancerous tumor on his brain over the last year, said at that time that despite the event’s appearance as a grand sendoff, he hadn’t made up his mind whether he would seek re-election.

Following last Tuesday’s filing deadline, McDonald said he had intended to file up until the last minute, when he said his health ultimately made him rethink that intention.

“My condition deteriorated so much because of the treatment I’m under, so I decided it is time for me to take a look at my health and family commitments,” McDonald said. “I still feel good physically, and I’m able to get around, but because of my weakened condition, it makes it harder for me to operate. I just felt it was time to quit.”

McDonald said he is saddened to give up his post, and that it would seem odd to not be in political office. He said he will be particulary dissapointed that he is not able to see several significant Watertown projects all the way through to their completion.

“There are a number of good projects in the mix that I wanted to see to completion,” McDonald said, pointing in particular to the senior home that will be constructed shortly on the south end of Lewis Avenue, as well as the city’s recent purchase of land near Highland Park. “It’s sad in a way, because I had looked forward to completing another term to see all these things completed.”

While McDonald is stepping aside, several candidates have stepped up in an effort to claim the seat. Charlotte Johnson, who ran against McDonald in 2010 via a write-in bid, has filed again, along with city council member Rick  Mann. Johnson, a longtime Watertown resident who has been active in numerous community groups, said she is looking forward to having her name on the ballot this year.

“I’m running for Watertown mayor to provide new and effective leadership,” she said. “My active leadership roles in Watertown organizations, excellent communication skills and my knowledge of Watertown’s history will help me as mayor. Also, I’ve attended Watertown City Council meetings on a regular basis, so I’m familiar with its issues and projects. I’m more than ready to be Watertown’s next new mayor.”

Mann has served on the city council for the past 8 years, and briefly served as acting mayor in November when McDonald missed time to deal with his health issues. Mann, also a longtime Watertown resident, said he hopes he’s given a chance to build on his previous service.
“Being a 34-year resident and a business owner, I’m dedicated and committed to Watertown,” he said. “With my 8 years of experience on the council and other commissions, I’ve developed a passion for serving the good citizens of Watertown, and I’d like to continue my service.”

In Mayer, Capaul will be stepping aside after six years as mayor and two years as a city council member. Mike Dodge, a former city council member, is the only candidate that filed to run for mayer.

“I had put six years in as mayor and two on council, so I just decided I had done my civic duty,” Capaul said. “I knew one of the previous council members was running, so I knew it would be in good hands. I just decided it was time to let somebody else take over.”