The figurative keys to Grand Forks City Hall changed hands Tuesday.

Grand Forks City Council members praised Mike Brown, the city’s outgoing mayor, as well as City Council member Sandi Marshall and City Attorney Howard Swanson at their last council meeting with those titles. Shortly afterward, a trio of newcomers took over: Dan Gaustad, who’ll be Grand Forks’ new legal counsel; Kyle Kvamme, who replaced Marshall on the council after she chose not to run for another term; and Brandon Bochenski, the developer and former UND hockey player who bested Brown in a citywide election earlier this month.

“Thank you, Mayor Brown,” Bochenski said shortly after taking his seat on the council dais. “I think it’s no longer an official title, but I believe it’s a distinction he’ll carry for the rest of his days.”

In sentimental speeches, Marshall and Swanson both warmly recalled their tenures there -- a new detox facility and community service grant that came together while Marshall sat on the council, or, less weightily, a surreptitious set of earphones Swanson used to listen to a Minnesota Twins game during a budget hearing.

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Brown thanked his family, city staff and the nurses with whom he worked at Altru Hospital when he was an OB-GYN there. He then played the same video he presented at his 2020 State of the City Address.

“My leadership style stems from confidence in the power of people and watching them blossom,” Brown said. “It’s been an absolute joy to work with all of you. I leave proud of the many things we have accomplished together.”

Brandon Bochenski
Brandon Bochenski

After the council briefly adjourned, Bochenski took the oath of office alongside his wife and children before convening it again to elect council officials and to appoint Gaustad.

Brown leaves after 20 years at the helm of the city government. He won his first term after a bitterly contested race against Pat Owens, who was the mayor during the flood of 1997, and then cruised to relatively easy victories each of the four times he ran for re-election after that. He lost the mayor’s seat this year to Bochenski, who pushed for leaner government and won the favor of Grand Forks’ business class and local Republican leaders.

Swanson was Grand Forks’ city attorney for 36 years and served under four mayors. Marshall spent her career in the human services industry before earning a seat on the council in 2016.

Less than 30 minutes after Tuesday’s meeting ended, Bochenski signed his first executive order as mayor. The order reopens city hall, police and fire stations, and the city’s public works facility to the public, as well as the city-owned Alerus Center. All of those buildings had been closed for months to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“As we ask private businesses to open up to restart the economy, we need to open city facilities as well,” he said in an announcement from city staff.