The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 17, 2012

Write-in candidate surprised that he unseated Winnebago's mayor

By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer

WINNEBAGO — By his own admission, Jeremiah Schutt was “shocked” when the final vote tally came in on election night.

The 26-year-old plumbing and heating repairman had achieved a rarity — a write-in candidate defeating an incumbent running unopposed.

Schutt became Winnebago mayor by 24 votes, outpolling Randy Nowak 310 to 286.

“I wasn’t expecting much over 200 votes,” Schutt said. “I thought the community would be afraid of my age.”

Five-year Mayor Nowak, who had no declared opposition until shortly before the election, declined to speculate on why voters cast their lot with Schutt.

“I’m not in their heads. What it is is what it is,” he said.

Schutt said he was approached by a couple of groups that asked him to run. At first he was hesitant.

“I thought about it for quite some time. It’s a huge commitment.”

When he decided to go for it, he launched an 11th-hour campaign, taking out some ads in the local newspaper and going online to purchase 32 lawn signs that he spread around the 1,500-resident town.

The married-without-children mayor-elect can’t cite what voters see in him, but points out that he’s an active member of the community, serving as a church trustee and on the town’s museum board.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m looking forward to it,” Schutt said of officially taking office in January.

Schutt said that since the election he’s heard nary a word about his youth.

For the record, the youngest elected mayor ever in Minnesota is John Gibeau, who was 21 when he took office in 1998 in the tiny Martin County town of Ceylon.