Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

How to Get Elected to Local Office - without Really Trying

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

How to Get Elected to Local Office - without Really Trying

Article excerpt

CASTALIA, Iowa (AP) -- Whether she's plowing snow, sorting mail, mowing grass in the town park or helping collect trash, Shelby Mundt likes being mayor of this tiny northeastern Iowa burg just fine.

The town's 177 residents like her just fine, too. As a write-in candidate, she's been elected mayor in every two-year election since 1981 except the last one -- when she formally filed for office for the first time and won again.

"No one has ever run against me. I don't know if they trust me. Either that or else no one else wants the job," Mundt says with a laugh.

"She really is a worker. She's on the ball," says Mary Szabo, who lives across the street from City Hall and the post office.

"I was over at Postville one time and somebody said, 'We'd sure like to have your mayor.' I said, 'No way. She belongs to us," Szabo says.

"She well-read. She's got the smarts all right," adds Robert Szabo, Mary Szabo's husband, who was mayor for a few years in the 1060s and is now one of five City Council members.

Mundt, 53, has a hearty laugh, a sense of humor and absolutely no time for office hours. She's too busy working and overseeing the town's $60,000 annual budget.

If her constituents want her this time of year, they know where to find her -- either plowing the streets or at one of the other duties she has taken on over time.

"I guess I like the job fine. I wouldn't say I'm ecstatic about it," she says while filling in for the postmaster, one of the many hats she wears for a few hours each week.

"It's not terribly rewarding, but it's kept the town together," Mundt says.

Founded in 1901, Castalia was once a bustling town that old-timers called Rattletrap because of the number of trains that passed through.

In its heyday, the town boasted stockyards and two train depots. Today, besides the post office, City Hall and volunteer fire department, the town has a bar-restaurant, a flower and gift shop, an auto repair business, two churches and a 3 1/2-acre park. …

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