In tiny Snellman, a dollar could make you mayor

Snellman mayor.jpg

Aunes Kauppala

By Sasha Aslanian

I was driving near Detroit Lakes recently and pulled over in Snellman, Minn. One of two businesses in town was open on a muggy Sunday afternoon.

Inside Aunes Kauppala’s gift shop, there was a jar on the counter. For a dollar, you could win a chance to become mayor of Snellman.

“Everybody has an equal chance to be mayor,” Kauppala said. “You don’t have to be a high-roller financially. Everyone’s eligible.”

Indeed, you need not be a resident to win, or even be present.

If you look Snellman up on the Internet, you’ll find it has a population of 10.

When I asked Kauppala if that’s so she said, “Oh Gosh, no. I know for sure there’s two permanent residents.”

But she wasn’t exactly sure how far the town’s boundaries extended.

“Up by the graveyard — that would put it to four people,” Kauppala said.

So far, about 10 people have put their names in the jar. Kauappala expects some more candidates will roll in during August. The kitty will be used to buy prizes for the kids at the Snellman Days Festival on Saturday, Sept. 3, when the new mayor will be selected by a random fair-goer asked to reach into the jar.

“My uncle was the first mayor,” Kauppala said. “Then Eddie [the town minister]. Now it’s “Doc” Anderson.”

Anderson hangs sheetrock in Evergreen, Minn.

The name of the winning candidate for 2012 will be printed in the Park Rapids paper.

Snellman is unincorporated, There’s no city council, so as mayor you don’t actually have to do anything.

At this moment when Minnesotans are feeling so low following a 20-day state government shutdown and an ugly budget deal, I found some charm in Snellman’s approach: a random drawing, and the politicians do nothing.

Sasha Aslanian is a reporter for MPR News.