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Lake Park has 3 candidates for 2 city seats

Voters in the Lake Park City Council elections will have three candidates to choose from on Tuesday.

Incumbent Martin Pepper has filed for re-election. He will be challenged by Aaron Wittnebel and Jon B. Anderson, who are each seeking their first term on the council. (Incumbent Kim Holloway, whose term also expires this year, has opted not to seek another term.)

Here is a brief look at each of the three candidates and their views on current municipal issues.

Martin Pepper, incumbent

Pepper lives in Lake Park with his wife and 15-year-old daughter.

He says he decided to run for re-election because he "wanted to stay involved with the activities of city government."

He would like to see the city experience continued growth, in both the business and residential sectors, and feels the city's EDA board is the main vehicle through which this can be accomplished.

"I think the way we help our city to grow is by having a climate for business -- by being open to different businesses coming in," Pepper said. "The council's role is more about governing the city and seeing that its infrastructure needs are taken care of, and the needs of its citizens are taken care of -- I don't think a city council can go out shopping for businesses -- a business has to come to the city and find the city receptive and growing and supportive. I think Lake Park offers all of that."

Pepper says that the passing of the school bond referendum and subsequent plans to build a new high school in Lake Park is a major achievement "that hopefully will help build our community going forward, and bring in more people that want to settle here and live here."

Aaron Wittnebel, challenger

Wittnebel, 29, is single. A Lake Park native who graduated from Lake Park-Audubon High School in 1999, he moved back to the community a year ago "to help out with things at home."

A graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, Wittnebel has gained considerable experience working in state and student politics and with area non-profit organizations for more than 10 years.

He said it's been his goal to run for city office in Lake Park since he was in sixth grade, and felt that now was "the right time" to do it.

He would like to see the city become more proactive in terms of economic development, possibly by finding uses for the old high school when the new one is built.

Though completion of the new school is still a couple of years away, Wittnebel said the time is now to begin looking at what might be done with the building once it's vacated.

"We need to actively look for proposals to redevelop that site," he said. "Even if it's torn down to build new apartments I'd like to see something happen with that space."

He would, however, like to see something done to keep the gymnasium and theater, and explore the possibilities for developing the site as a community center.

"Once we lose it, we won't get it back," he said.

Wittnebel said he would also like to see something done to develop Lake Park's "historic lake bed," whether it's by putting in community gardens, or possibly a municipal golf course similar to the one in Hawley. "I see great potential for this city," Wittnebel said. "There's a lot of opportunities out there for our small town to grow and see progress."

Jon B. Anderson, challenger

Anderson, 35, is engaged to be married, with one 15-month old son and two stepchildren. He works in the quality department at BTD Manufacturing in Detroit Lakes.

A Frazee native, Anderson said he lived in Fargo for nine years, but never felt at home there. However, within a year after moving to Lake Park, Anderson said it "felt like home to me."

"I wanted to be in a town that I knew would be a good environment for (the kids) to grow up in," he said, adding that he would like to help bring in more families to the community.

"If I can do something to make others feel at home here and bring more people in, I'll do whatever I can," he said.

"I would definitely like to put in more things for the kids to do in this town," he said. "We've got the pool, which is great, and we've got basketball courts by the park and the pool, but there's only two hoops," he said. "There's not a whole lot of places for them to play... unless they're 16 and can drive somewhere, there's not a lot for them to do."

Anderson said he thinks the building of the new high school" is the best thing that could ever happen for Lake Park."

He said he hopes the new school is "a key aspect that will bring more families into town, knowing they will have a state -of-the-art elementary school and high school and will get a very good education."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454