The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 22, 2012

Ojanpa: Prison roused Le Center mayor hopeful

By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer

— John McClune wants to be the next mayor of Le Center. He’s bullishly  upfront about that.

He’s also upfront about his felony theft conviction and his 48-month  prison stint for criminal sexual conduct. He says it would be dumb to try to sweep that stuff under the rug.

“I have nothing to hide. My life is an open book. No sense beating around the bush because it’ll just come back to kick you in the ass.”

The 42-year-old McClune operates his own trucking company and has remarried after a bitter divorce. He says she wanted the mine and he got the shaft, or something like that.

Anyway, life is good now and he says he wants a new challenge. So, never having run for public office, he’s vying to become mayor of the 2,500-resident community.

“I’m gonna bring this town back to life,” he says.

He speaks in unspecific terms about seeing to it that taxpayers’ money won’t continue to go where it doesn’t need to be.

“Apparently, the City Council doesn’t say no to anything,” he says, adding that as a guy who built up a business he knows how to manage the till.

McClune knows his past is tainted — “It is what it is” — but he stresses the word “past.”

He says he was a dumb young kid of 18 when he thought he could get away with stealing $1,100 from his employer. 

Soon enough he realized his folly and, figuring he’d get caught anyway, turned himself in to police.

His second-degree criminal sexual conduct case was much stickier. It involved an incident in his truck with a 15-year-old girl. The 2003 criminal complaint claimed it was fondling; McClune claimed it was accidental contact.

He was placed in the state correctional facility at Moose Lake, where he had his epiphany.

“I was violent when I went into prison, and basically it was a wake-up call. I wasn’t a religious person but I realized that I needed to change my life around or I’d never get out of there. It was time for me to grow up.”

He says he walked out of prison seven years ago owning only the clothes on his back and an ‘83 Chevy Camaro.

McClune is running for mayor unfettered by any legalities. By law he’s free to seek and hold office because he’s completed his sentence and probationary period.

Even so, he knows he faces a challenge because the label of sex offender is a permanent tattoo.

“It pisses me off but there’s nothing I can do.”     

 

Brian Ojanpa is a Free Press staff writer. Call him at 344-6316 or email bojanpa@mankatofreepress.com