The newly elected mayor of Aredale, an Iowa town of just 74 residents in Butler County, was in the middle of his high school business class Thursday morning when I interrupted to ask how the launch of his political career was going — barely a day into it.
“A lot of people were surprised because I’m not the most outspoken person at school,” Jeremy Minnier, 18, said of the reaction among his Hampton-Dumont classmates.
Out of 32 ballots cast in Aredale’s Nov. 8 election, Minnier won with a write-in campaign of 24 votes compared to eight votes for incumbent 76-year-old Mayor Virgil Homer. Because of all the write-in votes, the results weren’t tabulated until Wednesday, when the news broke.
“I’m glad,” was Homer’s reaction to his surprise election defeat. “The only reason I ran is because nobody else wanted to do it. … We’re all friendly.”
He had tried to goad one of his city councilmen to run for mayor, to no avail.
Homer, a retired truck driver, moved to Aredale from Kansas in 1947 and occasionally served on the City Council through the decades before his current mayoral term.
Meanwhile, Minnier does have some legacy of local politics in his family: The high school senior’s father, Richard, was an Aredale mayor before the son was even born and later served on the five-person council.
“I’ve been a leader my whole life,” Minnier added. And he reckons that he’s cleaned the gutters of literally every home in Aredale — a feat that no urban mayoral candidate could hope to match.
Minnier said he didn’t spend a single dollar on his write-in campaign (unlike this fall’s $1 million state Legislature election in the Cedar Rapids area.) But he acknowledged that some local businessmen printed and handed out simple cards with his name on it because “Minnier” isn’t easy to spell from memory on a ballot.
“I’ve even been called ‘Jeremy Manure,’ ” Minnier divulged.
Some biographical details about one of Iowa’s youngest mayors are typical: He’s president of his local FFA chapter. Plays saxophone in the school band. He cherishes his hometown and its “small-town feeling where everybody knows everybody.”
He lives in Aredale, but his family also owns a 20-acre hobby farm about four miles south of town where Minnier keeps his calves, sheep and birds.
“I could spend all day and all night out there,” he said.
Less typical is Minnier’s resolve to remain in rural Iowa rather than flee it for far-flung adventures in his 20s. He plans to live in Aredale even after high school and throughout his upcoming four-year mayoral term. He’s looking at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo to study landscaping; he loves his current part-time job at North Country Landscaping in Hampton.
“I’ve never wanted to move far away from home,” he said.
Get this: The new mayor also has a twin brother, Jamie, who’s his more athletic counterpart — lifting weights, playing football. So the face of city government will be even harder to miss on the streets of Aredale.
Better yet: Minnier’s 29-year-old brother-in-law, Shawn Dietz, was elected mayor of Hampton this week in a narrow 341-325 win.
“I’m proud of him as well,” Minnier said.
In other words, welcome to the emerging political power family of Butler and Franklin counties.
“I don’t have a lot of interest in becoming a big politician,” Minnier clarified.
But he does have a list of specific issues to tackle:
The overall appearance of downtown Aredale, including barren planters that lacked flowers this year.
The city septic system needs to be addressed — perhaps with construction of a new leach field.
Hookup to rural water for the city, which currently relies on individual wells.
“Young adults are just as interested in this stuff as adults,” Minnier said.
Small-town mayors too young to legally crack open a can of beer haven’t rated a complete novelty across Iowa. After 18-year-old Sam Juhl was elected mayor of Roland in 2005 he was declared likely to be the youngest mayor in the country. And the Dallas County town of Dawson had been led by Drake University student Colton Morman, also elected at 18; but he passed the torch to his 22-year-old cousin Breanna Morman, who won this week with 29 votes.
“We are the future. We’ll be running this country some day,” Minnier said.
In Minnier’s case, someday arrives in January. Aredale’s City Council meets the second Monday of the month.
Written by Kyle Munson/Des Moines Register