John Stein (mayor)

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For other people of the same name, see John Stein.

John C. Stein, is a former American Republican later turned Democratic politician who served as the Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska from 1987 to 1996.[1][2]


Of Pennsylvania Dutch background, John Stein was born in 1944.[3][4]

Stein, his wife Karen, Chas St. George, Irl Stambaugh (later to be Chief of Police), Sarah Palin, Palin's father-in-law Jim Palin and his wife Faye, started a planning group, Watch on Wasilla, to found a police department. Members Stein, Stambaugh and Palin traded notes on their plans at a step-aerobics class they took together.[1]

He served as the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska from 1987 to 1996.

During the mayoral race of 1996, Stein ran on the platform of increasing services to Wasilla that had defined his past achievements in the city including establishing a 2% sales tax to support the creation and operation of a police department and pave many of the gravel streets.[1] He later characterized the issues of abortion, gun control and church/state as being outside the scope of non-partisan local government, and stated that he had been surprised at their appearance as campaign issues in the 1996 election.[3] During his tenure the city of 5,000 was characterized by highway strip development. Stein helped protect Wasilla residential neighborhoods and recreational lakes by initiating an exhaustive public process that lead to the strengthening of local zoning ordinances,[5] along with the surrounding Mat-Su Valley towns of Palmer, Big Lake, Willow, Houston, and Talkeetna.

In 1996, Sarah Palin ran against Stein for the post of mayor as the Republican Party candidate.[5] Irl Stambaugh, who had become Chief of Police for Wasilla, supported Stein in the campaign. Palin campaigned against Stein's policies related to funding public works.[1][6] Stein's experience was a factual basis for his campaign. His opponent took a different, less objective route in portraying Stein's policy and character during the election. Stein was ironically, considering his previous associations with Palin, categorized as part of an "old boy network".[1] His opponent was categorized as "Wasilla's first Christian mayor" by a local TV station. Stein felt compelled to reply, listing the previous eight Christian mayors, and clarifying that he was in fact Lutheran, despite his Jewish-sounding name.[3][6] "I'm proud of such a reputation but I, my family and forbearers are of the Christian persuasion".[3] The validity of Stein's marriage was publicly challenged by local activists Steve Stoll and Mark Chryson, says Stein; his attempts to prove himself by producing a marriage certificate were berated. "They said, 'Well, you could have forged that'".[6] In 2008, Stein reflected back upon Palin's political allies in the 1996 race, calling them her "liquor cabinet", and noting the prevalence of Wasilla's religious conservatives among them.[3]

Stein currently resides in Sitka, Alaska, retiring in 2010. He ran for and lost the mayoral election by two votes in October 2010.[7]

Personal life[edit]

His first son, Reber, was born in 1968 followed by Morgan in 1969 and finally Peter in 1971. All three were with John's first wife, Sandee Snow. John and his second wife, the late Karen Marie, adopted an infant boy, Jackson, in the early 1990s.

John Stein's wife, Karen Marie, died of breast cancer in 2005.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Mayor Palin: A Rough Record". Time Magazine. 2008-09-02. Retrieved 2008-12-31. Watch on Wasilla — included a handful of the town's most influential figures: St. George; the town's mayor, John Stein; and Palin, who wasn't in elected office yet. Her father-in-law Jim Palin and his wife Faye were also in the group. ... 
  2. ^ "New mayor, sharp knife". The Anchorage Daily News. 2008-07-29. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Armstrong, Ken; Bernton, Hal (2008-09-07). "Sarah Palin had turbulent first year as mayor of Alaska town". Seattle Times. Retrieved 31 Dec 08.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  4. ^ a b "Mean girl". Salon. 23 Sep 08. Retrieved 1 Jan 09.  Check date values in: |date=, |accessdate= (help)
  5. ^ a b Sasha Issenberg (12 Oct 08). "Anti-zoning key to Palin's early record". Boston Globe. Retrieved 1 Jan 09.  Check date values in: |date=, |accessdate= (help)
  6. ^ a b c "Meet Sarah Palin's radical right-wing pals". 2008-12-30. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  7. ^ Ronco, Ed (27 October 2010). "Westover sworn in as mayor". Raven Radio (Sitka, United States). Retrieved 21 May 2012. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Harold Newcomb
Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska
Succeeded by
Sarah Palin