Nov. 20, 2006

All in the family

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

They are both lay ministers at their churches, both members of the Lions, Knights of Columbus, local chambers of commerce, toastmasters, and both are members of the Minnesota Professional Photographers Association.

K.J. (Kenneth James) McDonald had served as mayor of Watertown from 1972 to 1974, and now again for the past few years.

KJ’s son, Joseph, can also add the term “mayor” to his resume, as well, as he was elected to be Delano’s next mayor in early November.

“For me, it’s a real compliment to his mother and I,” KJ said of Joe seemingly following in KJ’s footsteps many steps of the way in his own life.

“He’s been a very good role model,” Joe said of his father. “Definitely my hero. I’ve always wanted to grow up and be like my father.”

While Joe isn’t exactly beginning his career in local politics – he has been on the Delano City Council since 2000 – this will be his first term as mayor of the growing city. For KJ, however, this will be his last term as mayor of Watertown.

“This is the last hurrah,” KJ said. “I’m only 76 now,” he added with a smile.

Joe is a 1985 graduate of Watertown-Mayer High School, and went to college for commercial photography. After that, he worked at several photography studios in Minneapolis, before returning closer to home to Delano to start his own studio.

His office was in the Granite Works building from 1988 to 1994, and is currently on Bridge Avenue across from the Delano-Franklin Historical Society.

Joe knew he always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps; he just was not sure to what extent.

One of seven of KJ and Barbara’s children, Joe never really saw himself as being too politically active. He first began to see it in the late 1990s after finishing a term as president of the Delano Area Chamber of Commerce.

“After my commitment to the chamber, I realized that is where we can get things done locally is on the city level,” Joe said. He ran for his first term on the Delano City Council in 1999, and took office in 2000. At the same time, his family, and his business, continued to grow, as well.

“You take care of your family first,” Joe said. “I think we all have an obligation to give back to the community. I think I’ve always had a desire to serve.”

Both mayors see growth as a major issue for their respective communities. Joe attributes the success of Delano’s school system as a reason that people move to the area.

He said growth is inevitable, and said it needs to be controlled.

“We want to make sure that with the new growth, we have good, quality neighborhoods, new park systems, the amenities that so many people enjoy,” Joe said.

Delano’s population is expected to almost double within 10 years; Watertown’s, too.

“We have some very similar concerns and projects facing us,” KJ said. “What’s great about the local level is that it’s non-partisan.”

KJ served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1976 through 1990. He also spent one year each with the departments of transportation, veterans affairs, and department of agriculture, before retiring from the state altogether in 1994, and going back to his own photography studio.

His district was the only district made up of solely one entire county – Carver County.

“Republicans always carried Carver County,” he added. In 1982, KJ was invited by President Ronald Reagan to the White House to receive an award for his pro-life conservative voting record. He was one of 25 legislators from across the US so honored at that time.

KJ is one of 13 siblings, and hails from the McDonald family farm in Hollywood Township. He served in the US Air Force from 1950 to 1954. He went on to study design and photography at the Chicago School of Art, and went into motion picture production in Hollywood, Calif. before owning his own business in the 1950s and 1960s.

KJ and Barbara have seven children of their own; Joe, Frank, Mary, Susan, Anne, Kenny, and Peter, along with 11 grandchildren.

“I am so pleased with our family,” KJ said. “We’ve been blessed.”

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