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East Grand Forks council picks Helms to join their ranks

Dale Helms is the latest addition to the East Grand Forks City Council after council members voted on Tuesday to have him join their ranks until the November elections.


Dale Helms is the latest addition to the East Grand Forks City Council after council members voted on Tuesday to have him join their ranks until the November elections.

He had sought to represent Ward 2 half a dozen times before but hadn’t been able to muster the necessary votes.

But several council members who picked him instead of the other candidate, Erin Almlie, said they did so because he’d tried so many times. They encouraged Almlie to run in November, though she declined to say on Tuesday if she planned to do so.

Helms said he, too, encouraged her to run. “I told Erin, I says, ‘Don’t give up. It took me six tries to get here.’” He said he couldn’t say if he would run in November either.

The last person to represent Ward 2 was Ron Vonasek, who died in December, necessitating the temporary appointment.



Helms said he and Vonasek were good friends and talked often about city business. “I hope that he would be happy to know I got the appointment.”

Council member Chad Grassel, whose father Dick represented Ward 2 until his death in 2011, was one of four votes in Helms’ favor; two others voted against him. “It was a difficult decision for me - that seat is near and dear - and probably the reason I’m here,” Grassel said.

Helms had run against Dick Grassel several times, but he said they were all clean races. Most of the time, he said, he ran because the incumbent didn’t have a challenger and he thought voters should have a choice.

Also, he said, he usually complained about city government and felt obligated to try and do something about it.

Close vote

The council was initially divided between Helms and Almlie. When she was nominated, members voted 3-3 -Craig Buckalew, Mark Olstad and Henry Tweten voted “yes” - requiring a tie-breaking “no” vote from Mayor Lynn Stauss.

When Helms was nominated, the vote was 4-2, with Buckalew joining the majority.


Helms said one of his goals once he’s on the council is to encourage more residents to attend council meetings as he has for years. “It’s their city, people we’re working for,” he said. Maybe people feel they’re not welcome or that they’d be interrupting something, he said, but he hopes to work with other council members to reverse that sentiment.

Helms is a businessman and a longtime civic volunteer. The owner of J&J Laundromat and car wash in Grand Forks, he bought Triangle Coach Service in East Grand Forks a year ago. He also is active in the East Grand Forks Heritage Village and the Masons.

City of East Grand Forks

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