By Ryan Gueningsman
John McCain for . . . school board?
No, it’s not a misprint on the ballot. John McCain of rural Delano is running for one of five open positions on the Watertown-Mayer School Board. McCain lives in northern Carver County in Watertown Township, but has a Delano address.
“I don’t know if anybody would think it’s a misprint on the ballot that John McCain accidently got printed on the school board roster,” Delano’s John McCain said. “I think there’s enough people who know who I am.”
Certainly, plenty of people do know his name, but not only in Watertown or Delano. And, although Senator John McCain was elected to Congress in 1982, this is the local McCain’s first venture into politics.
“There are five seats open this year,” McCain said. “I have been attending school board meetings pretty regularly for last couple of years and have seen a lot of positive changes.”
He said now is simply his time to step up and try to continue to expand those positive changes, and that the presence of another John McCain on the campaign trail didn’t factor into his decision to file for school board.
“I think it’d be an honor to serve on the school board,” McCain said. “I don’t think people realize how much time and energy the school board members put into it, and also have a fair amount of public exposure that’s not always positive.”
As for his campaign activities so far this fall, McCain said he has not been out actively campaigning too hard. He joked about making some stickers that say “for school board” that he could paste on to the other McCain’s signs that are located around the Watertown-Mayer School District.
“I am having signs printed this week, and they are going to have my picture on it,” McCain said. “It’ll be very clear.”
He said he is also going to be producing an informational flier and distributing those locally, but beyond that, he doesn’t see his campaign overcoming his life.
McCain is a civil engineer, and owns McCain and Associates, with its headquarters located in Maple Plain. The company also has an office in Bismark, ND, and provides a range of engineering and environmental services to industrial, manufacturing, and power utility clients, as well as local and regional governmental units.
He grew up in Burnsville, and moved to this area 11 years ago. He and his wife, Val, have five children; two who have graduated from Watertown-Mayer High School and three still attending school within the district.
About eight years ago, when Sen. John McCain entered the national spotlight seeking a presidential endorsement in 2000, the local McCain started hearing name comparisons and comments.
“It just kind of bounces off you,” he said. His father, also John McCain, lives in Eden Prairie. They are two of six John McCains who live in Minnesota, according to an Internet search of public records.
This past winter, the local McCain received a call from organizers of an event in conjunction with a curling championship event that took place in Grand Forks.
“(Barack) Obama and (Hillary) Clinton were going to be campaigning in Grand Forks that weekend, so they called me to ask if I could come up so they could advertise John McCain would come to that event,” McCain said with a laugh. “I had to decline, but it was funny.”
He said recently, a woman also stopped by his Maple Plain office, thinking it was a Sen. John McCain campaign office, and was looking for a button and literature.
When he makes phone calls or send e-mails, too, sometimes people pause a bit before reacting to them.
“I sometimes wonder if e-mails get dumped,” McCain said. “Either people not interested in politics or voting on the Obama ticket. I don’t know if that happens, but suspect it might a little bit.”
He doesn’t remember ever being hung up on when he’s made outgoing telephone calls, but said there is a slight reaction when he calls someone and says he’s John McCain.
“Sometimes people will pause because they’re not interested in a political spiel,” McCain said, adding his school board campaign wouldn’t be too relevant for the people he’s calling on for business.
And for the big question does the local McCain support the presidential candidate?
“I tend to be conservative in my politics, and would tend to probably support McCain’s ideas over Obama’s, but I do try to keep an open mind,” McCain said, noting he has been watching the presidential debates with interest this year.
Sen. McCain’s Regional Communications Director Tom Steward found humor in the fact another John McCain is running for public office this year.
“I’m sure there are others (John McCains) out there, but I don’t know of any others running for office like this,” Steward said. “The more name recognition we can have out there, the better. We welcome him to the race.”
Steward said Sen. McCain is bringing in people who have never been involved in politics before.
“He’s attracting more peope to the process this year more independent folks like this, and that’s a healthy thing for the process,” Steward said.
Delano’s McCain will be running against Larry Oberender, Steve Burns, Jennifer Hoover, and Chad Koehler for one of four four-year positions open on the school board. Joyce Peterson had also filed for the position, but withdrew her application in September.
The district also has one opening for a two-year position on the board, with Paul Neaton, Scott Anderson, and Matt Williams filing for that spot.