COTTAGE GROVE – Jon Stinnett probably doesn’t have a theme song.

But if he were to choose one, B.B. King’s “I Like to Live the Love (That I Sing About)” wouldn’t be a bad choice.

Because Stinnett – even though he runs “about 30 miles a week” through the streets of Cottage Grove – always walks the walk. He’s continually looking to make a difference in the world. He loves his community. It’s clear he adores his wife and two little girls. Even during these tough times, he’s a glass three-quarters-full kind of guy. 

RON HARTMAN/PHOTO

Cottage Grove councilor John Stinnett back on stage Friday.

So naturally, the talented city councilman had much to be optimistic about on stage Friday night as music made its long-awaited return to The Axe & Fiddle.

A spillover crowd thoroughly enjoyed the show as Stinnett – playing solo and switching between piano, uke and guitar – blended in some of his uplifting originals like “Lucifer and Me” and “Say Yes For a Change” with covers like “Watching the Wheels” and “Cowgirl in the Sand.” 

“Don’t dwell on the negative. Or we might as well just lay down and be done with it,” Stinnett said. “We have to at least pretend we’re gonna be here even if we don’t believe it.”

Originally from Springfield, Ill., he did his undergrad studies at Florida State, then headed west. Stinnett earned his master’s in magazine journalism at the University of Oregon in 2004. It wasn’t long before he became editor of the Cottage Grove Sentinel, a position he held proudly for 10 years, until moving on in 2016. 

Sometimes he misses newspaper work. Except for production days ...

“I got married, we had our two daughters, and we moved to Cottage Grove in ’07, and things were great for a while. I loved my job,” Stinnett said. “But 10 years of weekly deadlines gets to you.

“So I left in 2016, went to a consulting firm, putting out newsletters. It was doing decent business, but it died when Covid hit. So that’s when I decided to run for City Council last fall. I realized that my perspective was useful, and the depth and breadth of my knowledge could help people not only survive but thrive here.”

Stinnett said he played some music with friends in high school but never got too serious about it. A Humanities major, he said losing a couple of close friends a few years later inspired him to write music again. It wasn’t long before he and some buddies formed a band called Anticipate Pie. Later, it was a group called Flies With Honey. “You catch more flies with honey, so it was sweeter music,” Stinnett said. “That was the idea.”

Obviously, Stinnett is a man of many talents. Thus far, he has already enjoyed professional careers as a journalist and a musician, and he’s now in the first year of a four-year term as a local politician.

So what could possibly lie ahead for Jon Stinnett in the coming months and years? 

“I talk to my wife (Heather Campbell) every day – what are we going to do, what are we going to do? I have no idea. We’re making ends meet, but everything’s intertwined. But we want to stay here in Cottage Grove, there’s so much to like about here. I have a bar full of friends here – how do you quantify that?”

You might say he’s just living like a King.