Busy Election Day approaches

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 4, 2002

Freeborn County’s busiest election season in recent memory culminates Tuesday, with high-profile races for mayor, sheriff, county commissioner and others, as well as school levy questions in two of the county’s school districts, on the ballot.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Albert Lea and many surrounding cities and townships as voters decide a series of controversial races and Albert Lea’s second try at a school referendum in the last two years.

Here’s a look at what’s on the ballot around Freeborn County:

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County races

Commissioners: In the Fourth District, incumbent county board chairman Dave Mullenbach faces a challenge from former county administrator Truman Thrond. In the Second District, a last-minute change of heart by challenger Dave Hutchins means Dan Belshan will have a challenger after all. Hutchins had earlier said he was no longer interested in the job, but was too late to take the name off is ballot.

Sheriff: With the retirement of Don Nolander, Freeborn County will see its first open-seat sheriff’s election since the 1960s. The campaign between former sheriff’s office investigator/supervisor Mark Harig and Albert Lea police lieutenant Phil Bartusek has been close and heated. In the primary, the two were separated by just a handful of votes.

Auditor/Treasurer: Dennis Distad is getting a rare election challenge, thanks to former County Commissioner Keith Porter.

Recorder: Appointed incumbent Kelly Callahan faces his first election, and his opponent is county administration employee Irene Anderson.

Albert Lea school district

Supporters are hoping for a different outcome than last year, when a school district operating levy was soundly defeated. This year, they say the stakes are higher, with deep cuts probable if the referendum does not pass.

Residents can approve two levels of funding: One question asks for $365 per pupil per year, and the second would add an additional $125 per student annually for the five-year levy term. The school says approving question one will allow the school to avoid immediate cuts; if the first and second questions both pass, the school can restore some of last year’s cuts and add all-day kindergarten. The second question can only count if the first question is passed. If both questions fail to pass, the district says more cuts, including an elementary school closure, will be imminent.

Last year’s referendum failure and the ensuing budget cuts may be a reason why eight people are running for four seats on the school board. Incumbents Marjorie Thorn and Tom Eaton are among four people running for three four-year terms; the others are newcomers Jolinda Schrieber and Sheila Helgerson.

One two-year seat is available, replacing departed board member Darlene Griebrok-Hahn. Candidates include Bill Villareal, Michael Miller, Jerry Dahl and Patrick Corrigan.

City of Albert Lea

The race for mayor between Jean Eaton and Mark Anderson takes center stage as Albert Lea decides who will succeed one-term incumbent Bob Haukoos, who is retiring.

After a crowded and vocal primary campaign that included five strong candidates, Eaton and Anderson emerged on primary night as the final two candidates. Eaton, director of the United Way of Freeborn County, and Anderson, running for mayor for the second straight election, have run aggressive and spirited campaigns.

Control of the city council is also up for grabs, with the council’s two most visible veterans threatened by newcomers. In the Fourth Ward, Ron Sorenson faces a challenge from bar owner Jeff Fjelstad; in the Second, incumbent David McPherson faces Destination: Albert Lea President Randy Erdman. In the Sixth Ward, first-term incumbent Al Brooks squares off against former mayoral candidate and union leader Keith Porter Jr.

Other elections

The Glenville-Emmons school district faces crucial decisions on Election Day, with a school referendum on the ballot and many candidates for school board from both Glenville and Emmons. Regional rivalries and sentiment in favor of closing a school have characterized the races.

Also, a variety of mayor and city council seats in smaller area cities will be on the ballot. Clarks Grove, Wells, Glenville, Conger and New Richland are among those with contested races for mayor

In Clarks Grove, incumbent mayor Bruce Hansen and challenger Tom Jensen, a current city councilman, are the two candidates for mayor. Dick Nelson, Scott Juveland and incumbent Bill May are all running for two open seats on the city council.

In Glenville, there is a two-contestant race for mayor with incumbent Wes Webb and newcomer Joe Shaunce.

Wells has a contested race for mayor with two newcomers, David Jacobson and Mark Garver, battling or the job. Mayor John Herman isn’t seeking another term. There is also a race between four candidates for two city council seats.

New Richland will have change as current mayor Richard Baker is stepping down. Wayne Billing and teve Templin will run against each other for the position.

In Conger, the mayoral race will be between incumbent Rick Miller and city council member Carla Lindeman.

In Hartland and Myrtle, the mayor will have to be chosen by write-in votes, as nobody has filed for the offices.

Two candidates are running for mayor in Manchester: newcomer Julie K. Hanson-Haukoos and incumbent Bruce Vaith.