5 men to vie for mayor of Albert Lea

Published 9:38 am Thursday, July 17, 2008

By the end of the filing season Tuesday, there were five people who had filed at Albert Lea City Hall for the position of mayor.

Those candidates are George Gillespie, Michael Murtaugh, Dave Reisewitz and C.E. Vollum.

The following, in alphabetical order, is a brief description of each candidate:

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Randall Erdman, Second Avenue

Erdman, the incumbent in this race, was the first person in line on July 1 to announce his bid for re-election.

He was elected to the position of mayor in November of 2006 but has also served as a 2nd Ward city councilor.

Erdman said he decided to run for office again because he believes the community is headed in the right direction. During the past few years, the city government has been able to accomplish some major initiatives, he said at the time of his announcement.

He said he thinks he’s been effective in the position thus far, but he also credits recent accomplishments to the Albert Lea City Council and city staff.

“I think the city is gaining momentum,” he said.

Since he was elected mayor, Erdman said he is most proud of accomplishments that include gaining the necessary funding for the North Edgewater Park landfill cleanup; developing relationships with Gov. Tim Pawlenty, state legislators, Freeborn County officials, Albert Lea School District leaders and Shell Rock River Watershed District leaders; and completing the bike/walking path with pedestrian lighting from Brookside Park to Pioneer Park.

For the downtown, there has also been much progress, including the completion of the exterior restoration of the Freeborn National Bank and Jacobson Apartment buildings, the start of the Broadway Ridge Renewal Fund, the completion of the Albert Lea Public Library, and the renaming of the Albert Lea Civic Theatre to the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center.

George Gillespie, Lloyd Place

Though he was raised in Missouri on a dairy farm, Gillespie has lived in Albert Lea for 23 years.

Though he ran for mayor in 2006 and was eliminated in the primary, he said he thinks many of the issues he brought up during the mayor’s forum have been addressed and better community relations have evolved.

“In my last campaign I suggested a better community-slash-law enforcement relationship,” Gillespie said. “Someone was listening, and it happened. I brought up the sewer issue; someone listened, and now the city has taken the first step of many to resolve this problem.”

If he were elected to the position of mayor, he said he would represent all the citizens of Albert Lea and would not attach himself to any special interest groups.

He would make economic development his primary goal, as greater economic development provides job and growth and helps accomplish many other goals, he said.

“Albert Lea needs leaders to bring prosperity and growth to our city,” he said. “Only through the cooperation of local, county, state governments and local business leaders can this be accomplished.”

To attract new industry to the city, everyone needs to sell Albert Lea.

“Our city government and staff needs to be friendlier to existing and prospective industry …” he said. “If we cannot retain and expand the businesses we have, we cannot expect to prosper in our community.”

Discussing other issues, Gillespie said he thinks the limit of one topic during the public forum portion of the council meeting is unacceptable and that more needs to be done to polish the jewel of the city — the Blazing Star Landing.

Lastly, more work needs to be done to provide activities for the area youth, he said.

Michael Murtaugh, Willamor Road

After toying with the idea of running for mayor for a couple of years, Murtaugh became the last candidate to file for the office of mayor on Tuesday.

He said one of the main reasons he decided to run for office is because he feels strongly about keeping meetings open to the public and allowing public input.

“The more we can keep decision-making visible to the public — so that they know what’s going on — that there’s no question that decisions aren’t being made out of the public eye,” Murtaugh said.

That might be some of the reason as to why there are sometimes issues with decorum during the public forum, he said, because some people feel like they’re not hearing the whole story.

Murtaugh said if he were elected as mayor he would work to eliminate the preagenda meetings held the Thursday before the Monday council meetings. That way the public would get to see everything — the discussion and the decision-making.

He’s also concerned about wise spending.

“We really need to live within our means and address some priorities,” he said.

He’s worried about some of the spending that is being done and having to raise taxes as a result of that spending, he said.

“At some point we have to say the capacity to tax has been reached, we need to live within our means,” he said.

Murtaugh is a board member of the Bayside Ski Club and has served as a board member for St. Theodore’s Catholic School, the Cloverleaf Lions Club, and the former Albert Lea Campus Foundation for Riverland Community College.

He has also been a member of a computer technology advisory committee for Riverland’s computer technology classes.

He is married to Tribune Assistant Editor Geri Murtaugh. Together they have two children.

Dave Reisewitz, Minnesota Avenue

A call made by the Tribune to Reisewitz’s house was not returned.

Look to future stories about the mayoral candidates for more information about this candidate.

C.E. Vollum, West College Street

Vollum is a man of vast experiences — and he’s ready to bring those experiences to the table.

“Albert Lea has been stagnant for so long,” he said. “We’re only one of four places in the nation with cross-continent freeways — I-90 and I-35 — and nothing’s happened.”

If elected, he said, he wants to work more on bringing in small industries with good-paying jobs — ones that employ somewhere between 20 and 30 people — as opposed to trying to land a huge company with no success. That’s gone on for years, he said.

As the primary approaches in September, Vollum said he hopes people will get involved in the city government process simply by voting.

“Voting is the most important thing,” Vollum said.

He intends to be a major part of the campaign, and has already started getting his campaign materials — white buttons — made.

“I’m much like morning breath, I never quite go away,” Vollum said, with a laugh.

As an Albert Lea High School graduate of ’67, Vollum returned to Albert Lea the Christmas of 2002.

He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1973 with a split major in soil science and crop production. And from 1968 to 1970, he was in the active duty Marine Corps. He was in Inactive Ready Reserve from 1970 to 1998, and he will not officially be out of the Marine Corps until Jan. 13, 2012, he said.

He used to make commercials with KATE radio and has been a certified back country leader and guide for the National Parks Service for 20 years.

In 1985, he helped put glucose monitors in each of the District 241 schools, he said.

He resides in Albert Lea five months out of the year.