By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN When Bonnie Quast finishes her term on the Winsted City Council in 2012, she will have served the City of Winsted for more than a quarter of a century.
She continues to run for office because she loves the job and she hopes she is making a difference.
“I truly believe the people I have seen run for office over the years I have been here, feel they have something to offer to make things better,” Quast said. “It doesn’t mean that we did, but we would like to think that after four years, we had done something that helped to improve things.”
Always a priority to Quast is the need for the town’s health, welfare, and safety.
“The people. They are my priority and I don’t think there are any council members that would disagree with me in making sure they are safe,” Quast said.
“I would do anything for the people of this town.”
Quast has jumped in her car as late as 10 p.m. to check out a property concern a resident had conveyed during a phone conversation.
“People have a right to be heard because they are the ones that put us in office,” Quast said.
When she first became a council member in 1984 she admits to being a little afraid, having no background in city government.
Her reason for running for city council began with an incident that took place when Stan Weibel was mayor.
Quast cannot remember what it was at the time to make her so “irate,” but she does remember telling Weibel she was going to run for city council because of what had happened.
“I can remember going up to Stan and telling him, ‘I am going to change it’ I didn’t say we,” Quast said.
Later, Quast apologized to Weibel because she realized soon after becoming a council member, one person is not able to change anything.
“It was a learning experience, of course. I can’t do anything on the council by myself,” Quast said.
“Unity is the only way that anything is going to happen in this town. The council has to work together.”
Quast is not afraid to speak her mind during council meetings and has shown over and over she listens to what the people have to say.
“Bonnie cares,” Winsted Mayor Steve Stotko said. “She wants what’s best for the community. She is dedicated to making sure the right things are done. She is never afraid to ask questions or to give her opinion. It’s always good to hear Bonnie’s take on the issues.”
Since being on the council, Quast has found the experience to be one of constant discovery.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t learn something,” Quast said. “Actually listening to people when they talk, watching them when they do things, seeing improvements the whole thing is a learning experience. I can’t tell you a day, whether good or bad, that I didn’t learn something.”
For all but five of the years she has been on the council, Quast was the only woman member.
“I am fortunate in the sense that the men that I have been on the council with have served for numerous years, so it has never been an uncomfortable situation,” Quast said. “We have a mutual respect for the roles we play.”
Quast believes having a woman on the council is important, but it is more important for those running for office to run for the right reasons.
“Somebody that is passionate about Winsted and loves it enough to spend the time, because it is time consuming,” Quast said. “You really have to want to give that time to listen to people on the street when they stop you, be willing to go to meetings special meetings and sessions at the county level and retreats.”
During her time in office, Quast is proud of the number of city projects that have been completed.
While working with sponsorships for Winstock, she had the chance to meet people in businesses who were interested in moving to Winsted. She gave the information to City Administrator Brent Mareck, and together they were able to successfully recruit some of the new businesses to town.
Quast is also “extremely” proud of the Winsted lakefront promenade, and the way the new amphitheater has been used throughout the summer to entertain people and bring them together.
Another major project recently completed was the new city hall.
“I don’t think we could ever be sorry for the new city hall because we had definitely outgrown the other one and where are you going to go when you don’t have anymore room.”
Quast believes the city hall was good timing, before the economy started on its downturn.
Although the current economy has made budgeting much more difficult for the council, Quast compliments Mareck on making the council’s job easier.
“The economy has made things tougher, but we have a very, very good administrator and his long-term vision made it a little bit easier for us to make adjustments and cuts without hurting city streets, city water, and city sewer. Things that are absolutely essential to everybody.”
When Quast isn’t attending city meetings, workshops, retreats, or ceremonies, she finds the time to take part in other community projects.
She was part of the Winsted centennial committee in 1987 and organized a Highway 101 concert with lead singer Paulette Carlson.
The concert had approximately 1,200 in attendance in the Holy Trinity gym.
“Everyone enjoyed it,” centennial committee member Tom Ollig said.
“Bonnie was the organizer of the event and she basically did it all.”
Today, she is the Sunday school superintendent at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Winsted, and she is a central committee member of the Winstock Country Music Festival.
As St. John’s Sunday school superintendent she is responsible for staff, ordering materials, and both summer and winter Bible school.
To help pay for St. John’s new church addition and elevator, she initiated the Christmas dinner and concert six years ago.
This year it is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 4, which kicks off the Winsted Winter festival.
The dinner and concert has been so successful, people are on a waiting list to attend the dinner in September, and tickets for the dinner and concert were sold out almost a month before the event, although tickets for the concert only are still available for later that evening.
The Winstock Festival is another passion of Quast’s.
She has been part of the 16-year festival since its second year.
“Bonnie has been an important part of the Winstock experience for many years,” Tom Ollig, Central Winstock Committee member said.
“Her contribution to the festival and its success, and her membership on the central committee has been very much appreciated. It is our hope that her contribution to Winstock will continue for many years to come. She is not only a Winstock committee member, but she is our good friend, as well.”
Quast is “totally amazed” with her experience as a member of the Winstock committee.
“Every year gets more awesome,” Quast said. “When you stand up on the wings of the stage at night and look over the crowd. Last year, you couldn’t stick a toothpick in between anybody there was such a big crowd.”
Even more unbelievable to Quast is that the committee itself has never had an argument.
“We have disagreed occasionally but we have total respect for one another’s positions.”
Quast, who was originally from Watertown, moved to Winsted when she married her husband, Paul, 53 years ago.
Paul and Bonnie have seven children.
• Mike lives in Winsted.
• Shelly is married to Terry Jorgensen and they live in Buffalo.
• Jeff is married to Carol (Roufs) and they live in Howard Lake.
• Melody is married to John Hintzen and they live in Chaska.
• Tammy is married to Larry Vealetzek and they live in Winsted.
• Staci is married to Greg Revering and they live in Monticello, and
• Jodi is married to Ben Gilyard and they live in Buffalo.
Paul and Bonnie have 15 grandchildren.