Eaton sweeps mayoral race; two council seats turn over

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Jean Eaton came into the mayor’s race with a &uot;can-do spirit,&uot; and it was the attitude most of the city’s voters wanted.

Eaton, the director of the Freeborn County United Way, beat attorney Mark Anderson by a large margin of 4,681 to 3,606.

&uot;I’m excited, happy, jubilant, and appreciative,&uot; Eaton said.

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&uot;I hope we can make a big difference,&uot; she added, referring to herself and the two new council members, Randy Erdman and Jeff Fjelstad. &uot;I think the community has really shown they’re ready for change.&uot;

Eaton has already mapped out four things that she hopes to get accomplished soon after she takes the mayor’s seat in January: plan a building/strategic planning meeting for the council and city workers, increase communication between the city and its citizens, increase both internal and external marketing for the city, and training for city employees to &uot;focus on customer service in city government.&uot;

Eaton has a long history of leadership positions in the community, as dean of Riverland College in Albert Lea, head of the Convention and Visitors Bureau and now, as president of Freeborn County United Way. She will become the first woman to serve as mayor of Albert Lea.

Anderson said he was disappointed not to win, but remained positive in defeat.

&uot;I think I got some issues discussed that I thought were important to the community,&uot; he said. &uot;I think Jeanie can do a good job as mayor.&uot;

&uot;It’s been a long four months,&uot; Anderson said. &uot;When it finally winds down you know you gave it your best shot and you have a feeling of peace about everything.&uot;

Voters had many reasons for voting for either candidate, but the most common response to a question about why people voted for one or the other was &uot;I know him/her.&uot;

Larry Nelson, who voted at Brookside School, said he voted for Eaton. &uot;I know her and think she’s well qualified for the job,&uot; he said.

Jerry Monson voted at the city center. He said he voted for Anderson. &uot;I just think he’s the right person for the position. I like where he is coming from on a lot of issues,&uot; he said.

Eaton said she is grateful to her supporters and is looking forward to starting in on her job.

&uot;I care a great deal about the people of this community,&uot; Eaton said. She hopes that the election is indicative of a push toward the future.

&uot;I think this whole election says a lot about our attitude and drive to be more progressive,&uot; she said. &uot;I hope we can all get onto the same page about the future of this town. I think if we do that we can achieve many great things.&uot;


President of Destination: Albert Lea and head of the campaign for a local-option half-percent sales tax, Randy Erdman pulled out a victory over incumbent David McPherson, 666 to 514, in the Second Ward city council race.

&uot;I’m really pleased that the citizens of the second ward have faith in me,&uot; Erdman said. &uot;I’ll do everything I can not to disappoint them.&uot;

Erdman led the charge for a half-percent sales tax in 2001 to raise money for downtown redevelopment and lake improvement. Those two issues were the foundation of his campaign as well.

McPherson, who had held the seat for eight years, said, &uot;I thought that I had done what I should have done in order to run a good campaign. I have no regrets there.&uot;

&uot;I think it is obvious that Randy is an informed person and is willing to spend the time and effort needed to be a council member,&uot; he said. &uot;It will be a much different council with three rookies, Jean (Eaton), Jeff (Fjelstad) and Randy. But that’s apparently what people were looking for.&uot;

Erdman said he was happy about the campaigns that he and McPherson ran. &uot;David was a very good councilman, a very intelligent man,&uot; he said.

Erdman said he is very much looking forward to the opportunity to represent the Second Ward.

&uot;I’m going to work hard to make some positive change for this city,&uot; he said.


Jeff Fjelstad upset long-time incumbent Ron Sorenson in the city council race in the Fourth Ward.

&uot;I’m very happy,&uot; Fjelstad said. &uot;This just shows that the city is ready for a change.&uot;

The margin of victory was 269 as voters showed strong support for Fjelstad in a 909-to-614 decision.

Fjelstad ran on a campaign of bringing power back to the city council.

&uot;My goal is to eliminate the secrecy and stupidity on the city council,&uot; he said. &uot;We need new ideas and the council is currently stagnant.&uot;

Sorenson had served the Fourth Ward seat for eight years and before that, had served eight years on the Fifth Ward seat.

&uot;I want to wish all the winners good luck in their duties, and I feel the groundwork has been laid for them to do many exciting things,&uot; Sorenson said.

Fjelstad said he has enjoyed getting to know Sorenson through the campaigns. &uot;I like Ron, I really do,&uot; he said. &uot;I wish him well.&uot;

Fjelstad, who owns the Aragon Bar in downtown Albert Lea, has said he wants to see more economic development, better relations between the city and businesses, and more leadership on the part of the city council.

&uot;I just think the council needs to be more forward thinking and progressive,&uot; Fjelstad said.

During a recent debate, Fjelstad guaranteed that he’d return control of the city to the council, or he would quit and return his paychecks.


The only incumbent to be reelected to the Albert Lea city council Tuesday was Al &uot;Minnow&uot; Brooks, who took the sixth ward city council race over Keith Porter Jr. 788 to 355.

&uot;I’m feeling great,&uot; Brooks said, standing in the hallway at the Days Inn in Albert Lea, where many candidates held their final campaign parties. &uot;I’m looking forward to my next term, to continue to work with everyone in the ward and the many projects we have going on in the city.&uot;

Brooks, who has served one term on the council, ran on a campaign of strengthening economic development and job creation efforts. He also said he hopes to get the council more involved in company-recruitment endeavors.

&uot;I want to work to help find ways to help continue growth in the community,&uot; he said.

Referring to other wins by challengers Tuesday, Porter said, &uot;I’m glad to see some new blood on the council and I hope to see some different direction that the city is going toward.&uot;

&uot;I think I can stand tall. I’ve always thought if you have something to offer to the community you should put yourself out there. I’m not going to go away. I’ll be back,&uot; he said.

Brooks said he was very happy that the campaign between the two was clean.

&uot;I’m glad that I can continue on in my seat,&uot; he said. &uot;I want to thank the voters for supporting me in this race.&uot;