Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, October 19, 1998

Winsted Mayor Don Guggemos retiring


"When I started this job, I was a young man," said Winsted City Mayor Don Guggemos.

It was in the fall of 1974, when Guggemos was elected to his first term as mayor, just after his 40th birthday.

"I don't really remember why I did it," he said.

There weren't any big projects going on at the time, but that soon changed.

During Guggemos' first five years as mayor, a new water tower was built, and the city worked hard to relocate the McLeod County Day Activity Center (now the Adult Training and Habilitation Center) to Winsted.

"Floyd Sneer and Jim Albers were very active in 1979, when we decided to go ahead and try to get the center," Guggemos recalled.

"We did a good job of selling (the project) to the people of Winsted. We passed a $600,000 bond," he said.

Winsted got the center instead of Hutchinson or other larger communities, because, as Guggemos stated, "He, who has the gold, rules."

In 1980, he dropped out of the mayor's chair for four years, and during that time, the city had three mayors.

Guggemos said people get involved in city business for their own reasons, and there is no predicting what they might be.

For instance, when the water tower was built, the council passed a very large bond issue.

Very few citizens showed up during the discussions. But a lot of people came by when the time came to decide what color to paint it, he said.

"I've worked with some very good councils over the years," said Guggemos.

"We never had a bond issue that didn't pass. We managed to show the need for something before we put it before the voters," he said.

The retiring mayor has some advice for new councils.

"If you get elected, you should be at the meetings," he said.

Sometimes, he said, people run for the wrong reasons. They want something for themselves or don't want others to get something.

It's best if the officeholder has no personal agenda and is concerned with the welfare of all the residents, he said.

"I think, if you have no agenda, you can speak your mind," he said.

It is really important to do what positive things the council can do to help people out and make things easier for them.

He attributes the growth of industry in the city to that positive attitude by previous councils.

"When these folks came to do things, everyone was interested in seeing it happen," said Guggemos.

"What I'm most proud of is that people say (about Winsted), 'How do they do it?'"

"And I don't know if I can even put my finger on it, but our job is to help people, not stop them," he said.

Complaints? Guggemos says other council members get some, but he may only get one or two calls per month.

If someone stops him on the street and says there is a pothole starting on a certain street, that is information he needs to know, not necessarily a complaint.

But if he does get one, realizing it is only a part of the story, he tells the person he will get back to them. Then he investigates and tries to find out all the facts before responding to the complaint.

Of course, he said, there are those occasions where people want a traffic ticket torn up or a DWI changed.

Someone might say, "He only had two drinks." But since the person in question really blew the breath test, he must have had those two drinks from gallon pails, Guggemos said, and there is no way it is the mayor's responsibility to change something like that.

"I'm proud of what we have done here in Winsted. I don't know of another city our size that has blacktop and curbs on all its streets," said Guggemos.

Summing up what he liked most about his 19 years of public service, Guggemos said, "It's the people."

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