Two vying for Audubon mayor seat
The race is on to claim the title of Audubon's mayor, as two people are vying for the position this fall.
Incumbent Jeff Quam is seeking his first elected term as mayor, after having been appointed to the position in June 2011 when then-mayor Terry Johnson resigned.
He is being challenged by longtime Audubon resident Brad Grant, who served on its City Council from 1986-2000.
A native of Detroit Lakes, Quam has been a resident of Audubon since moving back to the lakes area in 1993 after purchasing a restaurant here.
"I owned and operated the Ranch House Café on the north side of Detroit Lakes for six years," he said, noting that the restaurant was located where Bender Chiropractic is now.
"I'd always been a cook and a bartender, and I needed a job, so I bought a restaurant."
In 1997, he began working for Lakeshirts, and decided to sell the restaurant in 1999. During this time, he also began working part-time for Zorbaz, and after a decade at Lakeshirts, decided to leave there and begin working at Zorbaz full-time in 2007.
The father of two grown sons, Richard, 20, and Mike, 18, Quam is also a 11-year member of the Audubon Fire Department.
About eight years ago, he ran for his first term on the Audubon City Council.
"My utility rates were going up and I didn't know why, so I started going to the council meetings, and realized I'd like to be a part of the solution instead of just complaining about things," he said.
Quam was about halfway through his second four-year term, when he was appointed as mayor.
"I had considered running (for mayor) in the previous election, but I didn't want to run against Mayor Johnson," he said, explaining his reasons for accepting the appointment.
Now, after about a year and a half in the position, Quam said there are some projects that he would like to see through to their completion, so he decided to seek his first full term as mayor.
"There are some infrastructure projects coming up that need to be worked on, and I'd like to be involved in that process," he said, adding that he is also interested in trying to bring more young families to town, and helping to plan for the city's future development.
"Small towns have it tough," he said. "It's a challenge to get more residents to come live in the area, and also to try to attract some more business."
The fluctuations of local government aid (LGA) funding from the state continue to provide financial challenges for the council as well, Quam noted.
"These are tight economic times," he said. "But we have been able to continue offering services to the public with minimal changes in our tax levy for the last four or five years."
But Audubon does have a lot of really good things going for it, such as a strong school system -- including a recently renovated elementary school located right in town, and a brand-new high school in nearby Lake Park.
One of Quam's primary goals is to continue to try to find ways to build on the assets that the community already has.
"This is a small, safe community, with an excellent elementary school located right here -- what more could you want?" he said with a smile.
A resident of Audubon since 1963, and a 1967 graduate of Audubon High School, Grant has been married to his wife Karen for 44 years.
The couple purchased their first home in Audubon in 1970, the same year that Grant went to work for the Becker County Soil and Water Conservation District. In 1978, he became the SWCD administrator, a position he still holds.
Grant also served on the Audubon City Council for 14 years, from 1986 to 2000, and spent 21 years as secretary/treasurer of the Audubon Fire Department, retiring in 2000. He also served for 20 years as secretary of the former Audubon Community Booster Club.
In addition, Grant is a member of First Lutheran Church in Audubon, where he serves on its endowment and cemetery committees, and has served on the board of directors at Sunnyside Care Center in Lake Park since 2000, where he is currently the chairman.
Brad and Karen Grant have three grown daughters, Kellie, Kristina and Kari, all married and living in the area, as well as nine grandchildren.
"When former mayor Terry Johnson stepped down last year in mid-term I started to entertain the thought about seeking the mayor position in the next election," Grant said.
"I feel my experience in working with the citizens of Becker County, county and township officials for over 40 years will serve me well in providing leadership to the City Council and the citizens of Audubon."
Grant feels there are a few challenges facing the city in the next few years.
"Financial stability, street maintenance, water system repairs, keeping the municipal liquor store in the black financially are all challenges that seem to always be present in a small town, all while keeping property taxes down," he said. "What's that saying, 'Too much month left at the end of the money' -- if elected mayor I will do my best to face these challenges with the best interest of the citizens in mind.
"One of the most obvious needs in the Audubon community is the need for a new fire hall," Grant added. "The current steel building was constructed in 1963 and has certainly seen its best years. A challenge for the city and the townships they serve for fire protection is to find a way to finance a new facility that all entities can agree on."
As for his goals if elected, Grant said, "I feel Lake Park-Audubon has one of the best elementary and high school systems in the area, which makes Audubon an ideal community to live in. My goal would be to continue to promote Audubon as a community where people want to come and live and raise a family and be a part of our growing community."
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.