It’s a big election in a little town
While many small towns sometimes have trouble getting anyone to run for mayor or city council, that does not seem to be an issue in the city of Easton, population 199 in the 2010 census.
There are two people running for mayor, and three running for the two open spots on the council.
And, like many contests in this 2018 election, this one is a just a little bit contentious. It is also interesting because four of the candidates are from two families.
Current mayor Brent Stiernagle is facing a challenge from Katie Sonnek.
And, current City Council members Jennifer Stiernagle and Gayle Heise are being challenged by Brian Sonnek.
From there it gets a little bit complicated.
Brent Stiernagle has been the mayor for the past six years. And, six years ago, he defeated then-mayor Brian Sonnek for the position.
Mayoral candidate Katie Sonnek is Brian Sonnek’s daughter-in-law, married to his son Ryan.
Council member Jennifer Stiernagle, is Brent Stiernagle’s wife. She has been on the council for the past four years and is seeking re-election for another four.
Then there is Gayle Heise, who is also a council incumbent and running against Jennifer Stiernagle and Brian Sonnek.
Heise has been on the council this time around for just one and a half years. However, she was on the Easton City Council for 12 years, some time ago, before taking some time off. When a council member had to resign because he moved out of town, Heise was asked to step in and fill out that term. She said yes.
You might now be feeling a little confused about the candidates running for the Easton city positions. So, here is a little more background.
Brent and Jennifer Stiernagle moved to Easton in June of 2000, about 18 years ago. The couple has four children, plus they are hosting a foreign exchange student from China this school year.
Brent Stiernagle works as a financial controller for North Star Aviation in Mankato, while Jennifer Stiernagle is a stay-at-home mom who also does architectural structural engineering drafting from home.
“I’ve enjoyed being mayor,” Brent Stienagle says. “It has been fun and I have learned a lot, especially the difference between private and public sector accounting.”
The need for a new water treatment plant is the No. 1 issue facing the city right now, the Stiernagles say.
“I have been happy to have been the mayor for these six years, and I hope to do it for years to come,” Brent Stiernagle says. “But that, of course, is up to the voters. Having a contested election makes it interesting, as well.”
Jennifer Stiernagle says she feels she tries to be an advocate for all the people in Easton. The water issue and street reconstruction top her list of issues that need to be addressed.
Katie Sonnek has not served on the council before, but decided she wanted to give it a try.
“I have been concerned about different issues in the city,” she says. “One is a lack of communication between the council and the people. When we had a water advisory there was one posting to notify the town. I think there are better ways to get the message out and keep people informed of what is going on. We need to know why there is a water advisory and how long it is in effect.”
She and her husband, Ryan, have two sons. She works as a nurse at River’s Edge Hospital in St. Peter and her husband owns a body shop in Easton.
Brian Sonnek has owned an auto repair business in Easton since 1979.
Besides serving on the council in the past, Brian Sonnek has been on the fire department for 40 years and was chief for 13. He currently is a captain. He also has been a First Responder since 1993.
“I think our priority should be better infrastructure, especially streets,” Brian Sonnek says. “And better communication between the City Council and the residents. That includes an updated website and consistant meeting times and dates.”
Gayle Heise says that after serving 12 years on the Easton Council she decided to take a break and did not file for re-election.
“But I did miss it, and when they asked me to fill out a term, I said yes,” Heise says. “I care about what happens to the citizens’ tax dollars, and I enjoy being on the council.”
She agrees that the biggest issue facing Easton at the moment is getting a water treatment facility.
“The thing is, our well is shot, and it is not an easy fix for a town our size,” she says. “We are looking at getting enough grants and working with at least one other town, like we did for our sewer system.”
Heise was born and raised in the Easton area, is married and has three grown, adult children.
Heise works at CFS in Wells and her husband, Vern, is retired.
Easton is not the only small town in Faribault County.
Walters, population just 88 in the last census in 2010, also has a contested race for mayor.
David Meyer and Stacy Krohnberg are both on the ballot for mayor of Walters.