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EGF mayor, council races uncontested

It's officially every man by himself in the race for the East Grand Forks mayor's office and City Council seats. Tuesday's filing deadline for candidates passed without any new additions to the five open races, each of which has one declared cand...

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It's officially every man by himself in the race for the East Grand Forks mayor's office and City Council seats.

Tuesday's filing deadline for candidates passed without any new additions to the five open races, each of which has one declared candidate.

For mayoral candidate Steve Gander, the lack of an opponent won't change his approach the next few months as he gets out to the community to meet residents and listen.

"For me and my plan, nothing changes because in the same way that connection is essential for making sure people know who I am and what I stand for - that I know who they are and what their preferences are - that's not only part of the election, that's part of doing a good job once you're in the office," he said Tuesday.

East Grand Forks' longtime mayor, Lynn Stauss, announced last month he would not seek re-election. Should Gander win, he will be the city's first new face in the mayor's office in two decades.

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A lifelong East Grand Forks resident, Gander previously served on the council from 2002 to 2007 and also has held positions on various city boards. He works as an optometrist, splitting time between Opticare's Forks Vision Clinic and Crookston Vision Associates locations.

If chosen as mayor, Gander said he would seek input from the community often and strive to keep city processes transparent.

"I love this country, I love this community, and I want to serve," he said. "It certainly means to ask a lot of questions and listen carefully to what people have to say. That's how our democracy works. If I am elected mayor, I only have the will of the people that I bring to that moment of making a decision on behalf of the city."

Council races

The trend of running unopposed also will extend to City Council races.

Residents voting for the city's first, third and fifth wards, as well as an at-large council position, will have one candidate presented to them on their ballots. Three incumbents - Council President Mark Olstad, Council Vice President Chad Grassel and council member Clarence Vetter - are looking to win another term, while newcomer Tim Riopelle looks to join the council.

Voters can write in candidates for locally elected offices, but past election results show these types of candidates make little impact on the overall vote totals.

Longtime Ward 3 council member Craig Buckalew ran for his current term unopposed, one of two such races for him during his time on the council. Over the past 10 years, at least 10 council and mayoral races have seen only one candidate, according to election data from the Minnesota Secretary of State's office.

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This year, Buckalew decided to not seek re-election. When it comes to small candidate turnout in his ward and others, he surmises there likely are people out there who might want to run for council but find themselves committed to other priorities that might not leave room for civic service.

Those commitments could include a job that might not be flexible enough to accommodate numerous meeting times and other events requiring a council member's presence, he said.

"The one week of labor negotiations, I was at City Hall more than my own store" said Buckalew, the owner of Hardware Hank in East Grand Forks. "A regular employer is just going to have issues with that and rightfully so."

Controversial topics also could pose a daunting hurdle to those new to city government. In the past few years, the council has put to bed several high-profile issues, including resolving an unpaid $510,000 economic development loan and finding a solution to the city's near-capacity wastewater system.

However, there are always matters that require the council's attention - from replacing key city leaders to debating street and parking lot repairs to vetting the city's budget.

"We've got a lot of the tough ones done," Buckalew said. "But are there going to be tough ones ahead? Absolutely."

Related Topics: ELECTION 2016
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