Mullenbach, Belshan roll; Callahan and Distad also elected

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 6, 2002


Dave Mullenbach defended his position as the Fourth District County Commissioner, outstripping former County Administrator Truman Thrond by a big margin.

The race reflected the dispute over the new courthouse plan, since Thrond, who appeared as a vocal opponent of the project, announced his candidacy. Mullenbach, as the county board chairman, has been vigorously pushing for the project throughout the planning stages.

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&uot;I’m happy with the result. I’ve worked very hard for it,&uot; Mullenbach said. &uot;I just want to move forward with a progressive leadership. I’ve been proactive ever since I was on the board. I want to keep that way to make our county a good place for my children and their children to live.&uot;

Thrond criticized Mullenbach and county administration acutely, pointing out the county too hasty to increase tax burden on the people.

He formed the Save the ’54 Building Committee, opposing the demolition of the 1954 administrative courthouse annex as a part of the project. The group had shifted their demand to a public referendum after the board decided to tear down the building. And a new group called the Freeborn County Committee for Fairness apparently evolved from the ’54 Building Committee.

Referring to his victory over Thrond as well as the success of the school referendum in Albert Lea, Mullenbach said, &uot;I think the message out there was clearly stated. The people want progress. They want to see things moving.&uot;

Thrond’s initiative mobilized mainly rural residents and seniors, many of whom don’t live in his district in Albert Lea, but failed to capture city residents. A recent failed attempt by the FCCF to sue the county and three commissioners, including Mullenbach, might have spread a negative image of courthouse opponents. The members of the group have remained anonymous.

Initially, Mullenbach was reluctant to focus on the courthouse issue. But, he observed a growing movement that expects some positive change in the community and recoursed his campaign to a more progressive stand.


In county commissioner District Two, which consists of the east half of the rural part of Freeborn County, incumbent Dan Belshan recorded a landslide victory over challenger Dave Hutchins, who once retracted his candidacy after filing for the office.

&uot;I’m very pleased with the result. It’s a honor to serve the district residents again for another term,&uot; Belshan said.

Hutchins, manager at Motor Inn Company in Albert Lea, retracted his previous announcement not to run less than a week before Nov. 5.

Not taking anything for granted, Belshan continued his campaign because Hutchins’ name was not eliminated from the ballot. Hutchins’ request for withdrawal was too late. Belshan said he door knocked at all the houses in his large rural district.

Belshan has not been afraid of being a minority voice in the board meetings, accusing the county of moving too fast on the courthouse project. But, he also had a number of positive contributions, such as the proposal to make use of the County Housing Redevelopment Authority for rural senior housing projects, and review the food service system for jail inmates.

&uot;My agenda as a commissioner is going to be the same. We’re going to be fiscally responsible, and we’re going to serve the residents of the county when needs come up. I will be always available like I was in the past.&uot;


It was just before 1 a.m. and Kelly Callahan was standing in the lobby of the Freeborn County Courthouse when he got the news.

&uot;I feel good,&uot; the county recorder said of his win.

Callahan was appointed 2-1/2 years ago to fill the recorder position. In his first election Tuesday, he was challenged by Irene Anderson, a 17-year county employee. Callahan defeated Anderson 7,583 to 7,179.

Callahan, a former attorney at Goldman, Callahan, Sturtz and Halvorsen, attributed name recognition to his win. &uot;I grew up here, and I believe I’ve done a good job in the office in the last 2 1/2 years. A lot of people know that,&uot; he said.

Anderson, currently a secretary for the county administrator, said she had no regrets about running for the position.

&uot;I feel good about what I did,&uot; Anderson said.

Her first experience with politics was a favorable one. &uot;It was great. People were so nice. I’d encourage everyone to do it.&uot;

Callahan also said he enjoyed the campaign.

&uot;All of the candidates in the local races ran a clean campaign, and that’s to their credit. The public wants a clean campaign. It’s a detriment to have a negative campaign.&uot;


After a long evening of totaling votes, Freeborn County Auditor-Treasurer Dennis Distad was glad it was all over.

Distad faced a rare challenge in Tuesday’s election for his seat from former Freeborn County Commissioner Keith Porter. Distad defeated Porter 11,843 to 3,640.

&uot;It’s a nice feeling,&uot; Distad said. &uot;I just appreciate all the support.&uot;

Distad has worked for Freeborn County for 31 years, the last 17 as auditor-treasurer.

Porter, who was at the election party at the Days Inn when he learned he’d lost, said the campaign was fun. &uot;This was my ninth election, and I think it will be my last,&uot; Porter said.

Porter won two of those elections, serving as a commissioner from 1993-2001.

He wishes more people would run for office.

&uot;I wish there was a way to get more people to run for office. Nobody does it city-wide or county-wide for the money,&uot; he said.

Distad planned to come to work Wednesday as usual. &uot;We have canvassing board at 10 a.m.,&uot; he said.

He also commended the local election judges. &uot;They deserve applause for the way they handled the supplemental ballot,&uot; Distad said.