An Irish Mayor in Minnesota


An Irish Mayor in Minnesota

By Joanie Buettgen


     Kenneth James McDonald, ( K.J.), was one of the most vibrant, and robust people I have ever met.   His body was small, with a stout build, stark white hair, and emerald green eyes, like glistening gems. He was only 81 years old. K.J. was a well-liked man, and had few enemies, these people had never known the man personally. They needed to sit down with him, and a cup of coffee. That would have change their minds. Yes, this man could talk your arm off.

     K.J. was his nickname, and one that all of us knew him by in our small town of Watertown. I first met this man at our Watertown summer celebration, “Rails To Trails.” This annual event is held at the local park. K.J. was always visible, making new friends, which included me.

     K.J. spoke with a strong voice. His knowledge was evident in a wide variety of subjects. His mere presence, commanded immediate attention.

     His hands were old and worn, not from physical labor, but from years of hard work. His style of dress might have been dated, and a little rumpled. Sometimes, I noticed a worn black suit that he always wore with pride. This man carried himself like a well-seasoned aristocrat.

     He was a true conservative, with Irish and Catholic attributes. At times he would break into an Irish speaking voice. You always knew K.J.’s Catholic beliefs, he shared them freely. He had a wide spread political agenda which was formed from his earlier days in public-office. From his assertive walk, the projection of his voice, to the twinkle in his eye, you knew right away this is an experienced man.

     You see, this man of 81 years had a wealth of experience that he openly shared with anyone who would listen. At a political convention, K.J. stated, “ I have been in the Republican party over 40 years.” “I’ll gladly sit down and discuss our platform with you.” His deep, thought provoking ideas, were planned by K.J. to get a dialog started, which he loved. He did not do this to make people feel small and insignificant, but to pass along his knowledge and to open your eyes to a few new viewpoints of his.

     He had lived in Watertown all of his life. His experiences include: a proud war veteran, a current member of the American Legion Post, local area Republican Representative, in the House of Representatives, three-time mayor of our fine city.

     I have known K.J. for over 20 years. I would see his friendly face daily at the Watertown City Offices, in our local post office, and driving around town in his little tan, Taurus; yes, there’s no doubt that it’s him. He lived right in back of our small town’s bank. His modest, older style house, painted brown, where he and his wife Barbara, had raised their family of seven children.

     Every local person knew this man. Whether it is in his son’s photography studio, where he worked part-time, to our local schools, churches and political events, he was always present. 

     You would think a man of his age would want to slow down, but not K.J. He has told me often, “As long as the good Lord is willing, he will keep me going and doing what he thinks is best for me.”

     He was wrestling with the idea of running for mayor of Watertown, again. The current mayor was called away to Iraq, and he was asked if he would consider the position. He did accept the position and is now Mayor of Watertown. He has always let his spiritual influence guide him in any tough decision he has to make. I like that.

     I like the fact that we both have raised our families in a small town. It’s a simple and honest way to live. Through the years, I might not always agree with K.J.’s viewpoints, but I respect him. He’s a good and beloved Irishman.


Joanie Buettgen is just another columnist trying out this new stuff.”

Published:,, Café’ of Dreams,, Minnesota Moments Magazine,, Carver County Historical Society, Kansas City BBQ Society, Carver County News, National Barn Alliance, and Ridgeview Medical Center newsletter.

Memberships: National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Toastmaster’s, Minnesota Newspaper Association, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

Social Networking: Blog:,, www.linkedin/com/in/joaniebuettgen.




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