While the nation may be focusing on the big election in November 2020, local residents will have a chance to decide new leadership in June when two City Commission seats will be on the ballot. At least one new candidate will be elected after one of two longtime commissioners has decided he will not run for reelection.
Commissioners Mark Simmons and Mike Thorstad are up for reelection on June 9.
Last week, Thorstad said he has decided not run for a fourth term.
"I've served almost 12 years and I've always been kind of a term limit-type guy, even though we don't have term limits in West Fargo," Thorstad said. "I figured I served quite a while and it's time to give someone else a chance to serve. "
Simmons, who has served on the commission for 16 years, or four terms, is still contemplating whether he'll seek a fifth term.
"I haven't decided yet what I'm going to do," Simmons said. "Usually the I'm the first one out of the chute, but this time I'm still considering."
Every two years, commission seats rotate in the election cycle. This year, two commission seats are up for election, and in 2022, seats now held by Eric Gjerdevig and Brad Olson as well as Mayor Bernie Dardis will be on the ballot.
Two new candidates have announced plans to file for election. Roben Anderson, a finance analyst at Doosan Bobcat who currently serves on the West Fargo Special Assessments Committee, and resident Mandy George.
“West Fargo is a great city. As I’ve talked with our family, friends and neighbors, I’ve learned that there is a desire for residents to know more about what is happening in the city. There is also a desire to be heard and listened to and this is why I’m running," Anderson said. "The voice of the resident matters, and I want to be an advocate for the present and the future residents of West Fargo.”
Anderson grew up in Portland, Ore., and is a University of North Dakota graduate. He and his wife, Paige, a West Fargo native, now make their home in the city with their twin daughters.
In 2018, he was appointed to the city's special assessment commission along with former City Administrator Jim Brownlee, and Eddie Sheeley. The commission helps usher residents through through the assessment process with public hearings and filing complaints.
George is a professional pilot for Bell Bank. She's been flying for them for about five years, and flying in general for close to 20. She lives in West Fargo with her 11-year-old daughter.
George announced her candidacy in early December through a what is planned to be a series of YouTube videos. She said she initially became interested in city government when she first moved to West Fargo in 2008 and it lacked a recycling program. The city was the first in the metro to implement a no-sort system. Then recently, George began taking notice of city issues such as the blighted downtown, special assessments, and a lack of affordable quality housing and she wanted to become more involved with the city.
"I've learned you can really make a difference, and a change in your community if you get involved," she said.
According to West Fargo Communications Specialist Ellen Rossow, to run for a four-year term on the City Commission candidates must have lived in West Fargo for at least nine months.
On Jan. 1, potential candidates can begin circulating a petition of nomination. Candidates must get at least 300 signatures from voters and return the petition and a statement to the city auditor by 4 p.m. Monday, April 6. Per state law, West Fargo candidates must file financial statements following the election.
Long line of service
Thorstad, a West Fargo High School graduate who with his wife raised his three children in West Fargo, was first elected to the City Commission in 2008. In 2010, he gave West Fargo its first contested mayoral race in 12 years with an unsuccessful bid against longtime Mayor Rich Mattern. He has since served as the commission vice president and oversees sanitation, sewer and water, police and fire portfolios. He is also the city's appointed member to the Fargo-Moorhead Flood Diversion Board of Authority, Fargo Cass Board of Public Health and Cass-Clay Food Systems Advisory Commission.
Simmons, who also raised his three children in West Fargo, was first elected in 2004. Over the years, Simmons has never shied from giving his support or criticism of large city projects. He has helped support recent large construction project such as the Sheyenne Street reconstruction, Main Avenue projects and downtown development such as Sheyenne Plaza, POW/MIA Plaza and Pioneer Place.
Simmons oversees the primary portfolio of administration and finance as well as streets. He also serves on the committees for urban forestry, tourism and events, airport authority liaison, Cable TV, building inspections/permits and West Fargo events.
Three of the seven school board positions will also be on the ballot, including seats held by board president Patti Stedman and board members Andrea Payne and Dan Schaeffer.
Two of the five park board seats will be on the ballot, including seats now held by Ken Zetocha and Todd Rheault.
City commissioners, as well as school board and park board members, are elected at large and serve four-year terms. City commissioners are paid an annual salary of about $11,800. The mayor also serves a four-year term and is paid about $16,500 per year.