In the first highly contested West Fargo Mayoral election in several years that saw three candidates seeking the top city post, incumbent Mayor Rich Mattern came out the victor in the June 8 Primary Election, but not without a vigorous challenge from West Fargo City Commissioner Mike Thorstad, with only 289 votes separating the two. Official vote tallies showed Mattern with 54 percent of the votes at 1,513, Thorstad at almost 44 percent with 1,224 votes, and Peter Karl coming in third with 62 votes (2.21 percent). Write-in candidates numbered three (.11) percent.
"It was a nail biting campaign as far as the outcome on election night," Mattern said. "What I really felt good about was the fact that the voters of West Fargo had the confidence to re-elect me as mayor. I consider it a privilege and an honor to serve."
He was also gratified the campaign turned into a family effort. "My daughters Annie and Jessie helped me with the social media efforts, while my wife, Jody, helped with the advertising and other campaign efforts. So, it was truly a family affair."
With the election now history, Mattern said it is time to get back to the business at hand for the next four years. "Commissioner Thorstad and I agree that we now need to move forward as one to keep West Fargo a city on the grow."
Mattern said that will involve focusing on two big issues - where the proposed diversion will be placed, if built in North Dakota, and how and who might be paying for it; along with attracting new retail along Veterans Boulevard. "That is especially true after the announcement that Sanford/MeritCare will be building a campus close to it," Mattern said. "That announcement gives us yet another opportunity to attract new business to the area. Of course, there are other issues, such as a water treatment plant that the commission will also have to look at."
Thorstad said that even though his mayoral bid was not successful, he is pleased by the frank discussion about the issues and challenges facing the city that transpired in the various forums held prior to the election. "I believe the mayor and I both gained a better understanding of each other's opinions on the topics. We certainly agree a lot more on things than we disagree."
Thorstad said it was disappointing to see such a low voter turnout, a reference to the slightly over 2800 who voted in the mayor's race. "With competitive mayoral, commission, school and park board contests, I would have thought the citizens would have come out to vote in larger numbers."
Thorstad said he was pleased by the positive tone of the campaigns he and Mattern both conducted based on their experience, qualifications and the issues at hand. "Several candidates in the various races mentioned the need to work together better with other governing entities, in West Fargo and in neighboring communities. I was glad to hear others feel this is as important as I do. I still serve as a commissioner and I'll stay actively involved in city government. The loss will not change my approach. I will continue to work for the citizens of West Fargo and speak out when needed. I don't think there will be any animosity between Rich and I going forward. In the end, we both want what's best for the city of West Fargo."
Several other races were also decided in the June 8 primary, all of them four-year terms.
Incumbent Lou Bennett was elected to his third term as West Fargo City Commissioner with 1,645 votes, along with newcomer Duane Hanson, who had previously served on the West Fargo School Board, with 1,254 votes.
After the election, Bennett said "I'd like to thank the people of West Fargo for their trust in me. I will always continue to address the interests of the citizens and provide the very best service I can provide. My door is always open to assist where I can."
Hanson also offered a thank you for the votes, adding "It will be an honor to serve on the City Commission and I look forward to getting to know city government and working to solve the challenges we face."
In the West Fargo Park Board race, two incumbents, Sharon Odegaard, Denise Johnson, and newcomer Jeff McCracken, were elected. Odegaard captured 1756 votes; Johnson 1,656, and McCracken 1638.
Odegaard said she is pleased voters had granted her another term. "There is so much to do and I'm up to the task. At the same time, I'm sad that Ken Zetocha (incumbent who came in fourth in the vote) will no longer be a member of the park board. He has been a very hard worker and was never afraid to ask the tough questions. We'll miss him. As for our newly-elected member, Jeff McCracken, I am confident he will do well."
Johnson said she was excited to be elected for another term. "We have some important projects ahead, including a solution to our aging pool, and I look forward to being a part of that process. I appreciate the support given to me during the election and plan to work hard for the residents of West Fargo.
McCracken said he is "very excited for the opportunity to work with the other board members and the park district staff on upcoming projects and events. I am very pleased with the outcome of the election, and would like to thank all that voted for me."
Susan Bailey, running unopposed for her second term for Municipal Court judge, garnered 2,313 votes.
In Harwood, there were two open city council positions and four park board seats, with no incumbents choosing to run. Dana Peterson and Ross Puhr were elected to the council seats with 97 and 64 votes respectively; while Carol Grieve was elected to the park board with 103 votes.
In Horace, two city council and two park board seats were open, with incumbents Craig Hakanson and Terry Heiden, both re-elected. Hakanson was the top vote-getter at 177, and Heiden with 116. Park board incumbents Julie Dahlin and James Pearson were re-elected to their positions, with respective vote counts of 191 and 156.
In Reiles Acres, newcomers Jared Purdy and Aaron Olson, came out on top with 37 and 33 votes.
Winning Mapleton's two city council seats were Eric Hillman with 50 votes and Dale Kartes with 49. In the bid for three park board seats, incumbents were all victorious - Patricia Warner with 106 votes, Jeff Hanson, 98, and Denise Hanson, 89.
Details about the West Fargo School Board election appear in the school board story also featured in this week's Pioneer and News.
For complete election coverage with a vote count for all the candidates on the June 8 Primary Election ballot, visit the Cass County government website at www.casscountynd.gov.