By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – As we get closer to the election, politicians are doing what they can to get your vote.

But over 40 years ago, a mayor in the northern Minnesota town of Kinney did what she could to get her city a new water system. That meant seceding from the union.

“I don’t lock my doors because it’s Kinney. It’s home,” said Shirley Agnoli.

Halfway between Hibbing and Virginia, you’ll find a town with a bar and a library and that’s pretty much it.

“I’m the fire chief and I am the lone city employee right now,” said Bill Wiltse.

It’s a place where everyone wears at least two hats- but a former mayor is in a league of her own.

“She attended three or four inaugural balls for the Presidents,” said Wiltse.

“She was known for her patitzas, her sarmas, and when she had a party it was packed,” said Agnoli.

Mary Anderson is also known for leading the smallest and most peaceful rebellion in American history. It was a fire that sparked that revolution. In January of 1974, she watched helplessly as her parents’ home burned to the ground.

“They tried several fire hydrants around town. They couldn’t get any water out of them,” said Wiltse.

So Mary decided to run for Mayor with a plan to fix Kinney’s broken water system. But after winning, she soon found out there was a lot of foreign aid, but not much for cities.

“She said we will secede. We will get foreign aid. If we can’t get it any other way then we will become a foreign country and that’s what she did,” said Agnoli. The town quickly got behind their fearless leader.

“Like it says here, Monaco, move over. Kinney’s coming. Kinney was about the size of Monaco and they were a foreign country. And they were getting foreign aid money,” said Larry Hauta.

Hauta runs Liquid Larry’s. He recalls Mary’s move bringing international attention to the town. The Republic of Kinney even adopted a Navy- which consisted of a single canoe. Grade school kids designed and colored the official flag. And becoming your own nation also meant passports were needed for outsiders to pass through.

“These are the passports that Mary started. Another way to generate a little money. They cost three dollars and they going to the city, whatever they need it for,” said Hauta.

The whole thing may have been tongue in cheek, but it worked. Grants came in. The water problem was fixed. Kinney surrendered and rejoined the nation. For years after they had passport days to celebrate their victory.

“We had a booth blocking the way to get in. You had to buy a passport to get in. They wouldn’t let you in unless you bought a passport,” said Agnoli.

Those days are gone but Kinneyites will always have their “passport to publicity.” Thanks to a late mayor who treated the town like it was the only nation that mattered.

“Persistent. She got her point across and she stayed on it until she got what she wanted,” said Agnoli.

Kinney’s population has shrunk to about 140 people. But to this day you can still buy a passport at Liquid Larry’s to support the town.

John Lauritsen

Comments (5)