by Dennis Dalman
Attorney Kimberly Stommes was elated when she was crowned Mrs. Minnesota at last month’s pageant because it will give her a chance to advance her platform, dubbed “Stop the Shots,” to help educate people about diabetes.
Stommes, St. Cloud, is a 2006 graduate of Sartell High School who lived in St. Joseph and attended Kennedy Elementary School when she was in third and fourth grades.
In January 2014, she was crowned as Mrs. St. Cloud. Then she went on to win the Mrs. Minnesota title at a March 8 pageant at St. Cloud State University. First runner-up was Amy Nelson, Mrs. Sherburne County, and second runner-up was Larissa Oliphant, Mrs. Hennepin County.
Stommes will compete with 50 other women from the nation’s 50 states for the title of Mrs. International July 22-27 in Jacksonville, Fla.
“It was surreal,” Stommes said of her big win at SCSU. “Such a surreal feeling to hear my name announced with my family, friends and my young daughter there.”
The pageant was a rigorous, sometimes nerve-wracking process, she said. She had to do five-minute personal interviews with each of the five judges. Then there were the onstage questions when she was asked questions “out of the blue.” When Stommes told the judges her platform is the subject of diabetes, she was then asked how she could help lower the chances of someone getting diabetes by making changes in the workplace. Stommes suggested several pro-active things to do: taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further from the building and walking, going for a brisk walk on lunch breaks.
Diabetes is a subject dear to Stommes because her stepfather, Scott Reinert, was diagnosed with that disease (Type 2) several years ago. Stommes and her mother, Lori, in solidarity with Scott, learned as much as they could about diabetes and made healthy lifestyle changes themselves based on what they learned, including dietary changes and exercise regimens. Stommes lost 46 pounds in the process.
The Reinerts still live in Sartell. They own Showcase Properties, a real-estate business.
“I’m glad to say my (step)father is doing fine now,” she said. “He has his diabetes under control. He’s lost enough weight – more than 40 pounds – and he takes medications for the disease. He doesn’t have to take shots.”
Due to her awareness of diabetes, Stommes has become a forceful speaker to prevent and – hopefully – someday to find a cure for the disease. She is a member of the Sauk Rapids Lions Club, whose members are strong advocates for diabetes awareness and action programs.
As Mrs. Minnesota, Stommes will travel extensively and do dozens of speaking engagements – many on the topic of diabetes – throughout the state. She will have her own booth at this summer’s Minnesota State Fair.
Stommes’ journey to a law degree and the Mrs. Minnesota title was not an easy one. She said she had many difficult times in her life, the most difficult being the death of her little brother. When she was in kindergarten, she lived in Rockwood Estates, a mobile-home park south of Rice. One day, her younger siblings Heather and Jeremy, were playing with matches when a fire started. Three-year-old Jeremy hid himself in Kimberly’s bedroom closet and could not be found as the smoke became thicker. He died in the fire.
“Dealing with that was extremely difficult for all of us,” she said. “Extremely difficult.”
Kimberly’s family moved quite often: St. Cloud, Rice, St. Joseph, Sartell. Her six years in Sartell schools were productive ones. She was on the student council, a class officer, played basketball as a sophomore and was a Sabre dancer the first year that award-winning dancing team was formed, in 2002.
As a girl, she remembers how much she wanted to be the “Little Mermaid.” But her mother has often reminded her that her fantasy about being a little mermaid quickly morphed into a desire to become a lawyer. That desire stuck with her.
She graduated in 2008 with a double major (political science and sociology) from St. Cloud State University, then she went on to earn a juris doctorate degree in law from St. Thomas School of Law, Twin Cities. She graduated in May 2013.
Just last month, Stommes began a new job as a part-time public defender in St. Cloud. Eventually, she intends to open her own law office and practice family law and criminal law.
Kimberly has been married to Jeremy Stommes for six years. He is a machine operator for Park Industries in Waite Park. They have a daughter, 5-year-old Ava.
People will have a chance to meet Mrs. Minnesota Kimberly Stommes during a diabetes-fundraising breakfast from 8:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 3 at American Legion Post 254 in Sauk Rapids. Belgian waffles, sausages and beverages will be served. A portion of the proceeds of all sales will go to the Minnesota Lions Diabetes Foundation. Tickets are available at Showcase Properties in St. Cloud or at the door the morning of the breakfast.
Stommes said she is happy her successes allow her to help others, in her work against diabetes and her abilities to inspire others to battle adversities.
“You can do what you set your mind to – through hard work and determination, even if you haven’t had the easiest life.”
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.