23 school board, 11 city council seats up for grabs across Detroit Lakes, Perham and Wadena area in November
Candidate filing will open Aug. 2 for 23 school board seats, spread across six lakes area school districts, and 11 city council seats in Detroit Lakes, Perham and Wadena. Candidates must pay up to a $5 filing fee, verify their address and complete registration for those elections before filing closes on Aug. 16 at 5 p.m., said one city clerk.
DETROIT LAKES — A total of 23 school board and 11 municipal seats across the Detroit Lakes, Perham and Wadena area will be on the ballot this November.
Candidate filing for these local offices, included in the 2022 election, will open on Aug. 2 and will close two weeks later, at 5 p.m. on Aug. 16. Prospective candidates will need to provide proof of address, complete the registration materials and pay a filing fee of up to $5, said one city official. But, these elected positions may not always be what potential candidates have in mind when they decide to run for office, multiple school board and city officials said.
School Board Openings
Amy Erickson, a member of the Detroit Lakes School Board, said she initially ran for office because of struggles to pass a bond referendum for school construction projects in the district, and emphasized that members don't stop being your neighbors when they are elected to school board or different municipal offices.
"You are the exact same person, you are just privy to a little bit more information than the average person, but also, if anybody asks me about anything regarding the school district, I'll tell them," said Erickson. "It's important because (residents) want local say in how your school district is run and I think it's important that the residents of the school district have a voice."
Erickson also said a common misconception people have with the school board is how much power they actually have. "We only set policy," she said. "Our job is to set policy and hire, and fire, the superintendent, and that's it. That's all the power the school board has."
Erickson is not up for reelection in 2022, but three other seats on the Detroit Lakes School Board are. Here's how many school board seats are available across the five school districts contained in the lakes area.
- Detroit Lakes — Three school board seats. Jennifer Pedersen, April Thomas and Tom Seaworth have not officially announced if they will seek reelection to their seats this November.
- Frazee/Vergas — Four school board seats. Tammie Nunn, who was completing a term for a departed board member, is not expected to seek reelection, leaving at least one seat uncontested going into the filing period. Kimberly Antonsen said she plans to seek reelection this fall, while Nathan Matejka and Daneele Shipman have not yet announced if they plan to run.
- Lake Park/Audubon — Five school board seats. Marv Vareberg, Austin Veralrud and Dave O'Connell have already indicated they do not intend to seek reelection to their seats this November, leaving at least three uncontested seats open going into the filing period. Becky Mitchell and Dave Swenson have not yet indicated whether they intend to run again this fall.
- Perham/Dent — Four school board seats. Arnie Thompson has indicated he does not intend to run for reelection to his seat this November, leaving at least one uncontested seat going into the filing period. Justine Anderson, Nate Rooney and Mike Hammond have not indicated whether they intend to seek reelection, or not.
- Wadena/Deer Creek — Three school board seats. Ryan Damlo, Melissa Seelhammer and Peter Hayes have not indicated if they intend to run for reelection this November.
- Waubun/Ogema/White Earth — Four school board seats. Christie Haverkamp, Nick McArthur, Derek Hoban and Vikki Bevins have not publicaly indicated if they intend to run for reelection this fall.
"People who want to be involved in making decisions that are best for their students and community, and willing to serve, are willing to listen to all opinions, and willing to work hard," said Lisa Weber, superintendent for Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Public Schools, in listing the qualifications needed to serve. "I think (new members) don't realize how much time it takes ... they have to do a lot of training, so it is quite a commitment."
She also said: "However, the rewards are tremendous. When you know you are doing good work for the kids, the schools, you are doing good work for your community and setting it up for the future."
Kimberly Antonsen, vice chair of Frazee-Vergas Public Schools, said some people think joining the board means they can "change everything," but they will eventually learn they don't have that power.
"You have power to listen," said Antonsen. "That's the relationship (the board) is building with the superintendent and that's what is so important."
Antonsen said Terry Karger, superintendent for Frazee-Vergas Public Schools, doesn't sugar-coat things for the board and delivers the "meat and potatoes" every time he speaks to them and she appreciates that.
"He's very knowledgeable, he's been around for quite a while," she said.
Compromising and learning how to work together with people you may disagree with is another important lesson, said John Steffl, chair of the Detroit Lakes School Board.
"It's been a good showing of the way state and federal (representatives) should be dealing with stuff," he said. "And do you know what the outcome was? We got (the referendum) done for the people of the district and we continue to do that."
Steffl also said he encourages members of the community to reach out to him, or any other board members, with any problems or concerns they may have with their schools and they would be glad to meet with them at any time. He added that if a face-to-face meeting doesn't quell their feelings and they still want to address the full board, that will always remain an option.
Mayor/City Council Openings
Eleven municipal races, including mayor's races in Perham and Wadena, will be on the ballot in November.
"I'll always encourage (potential candidates), especially if they got a passion for the city," said Wadena Mayor George Deiss. "That's what it's all about, that's what got me into it."
Here's which local offices are up for grabs in the lakes area.
Detroit Lakes — 5 city council seats. Two at-large council seats, including one uncontested race left by outgoing council member Madalyn Sukke, can be filled by any Detroit Lakes resident living within the city limits. Natalie Bly, alderman-at-large, said she will run for reelection this November. Three other city council seats are also on the November ballot — one from each of the city's three wards, including an uncontested seat in the second ward left by outgoing council member Jamie Marks Erickson, who previously announced she will not run. Dan Wenner, alderman first ward, and Matt Boeke, alderman third ward, have not declared if they will seek reelection this November. Readers can check out which ward they live in at DL-Online .
Perham — Mayor and two city council seats. Mayor Timothy Meehl has not declared if he will run for reelection this November. Fred Lehmkuhl said he will be seeking reelection to his city council seat. Additionally, according to a source familiar with the council member's thinking, Brad Schmidt will be seeking reelection to the Perham City Council this fall.
Wadena — Mayor and two city council seats. Mayor George Deiss said he plans on running for reelection this November. City council members Bruce Uselman and Mark Lunde have not announced if they will seek another term this fall.
Glori French, city clerk for Detroit Lakes, said it costs $5 dollars to file for municipal office in Detroit Lakes and all the registration material for the 2022 election can already be found on the city of Detroit Lakes website .
There is also a significant time commitment to being a council member, she added; candidates should be prepared to attend regular and special council meetings, workshops and various committee meetings throughout their terms, as well as go through an extensive training process if they are elected to serve.
Be sure to check out the websites for the cities of Perham and Wadena for more information on elections in those communities.