Claims from Willmar, Minn., councilman denied by former council candidates
WILLMAR — Unsuccessful City Council candidates Andrew Bjur and Jay Lawton deny a claim by council member Ron Christianson that they have ties to a citizens group that expressed concerns earlier this month about the current state of affairs within and outside the operation of the city of Willmar.
At Monday night’s council meeting, Christianson read a statement criticizing Moving Willmar Forward, a group of 15 individuals that came forward at the Dec. 3 council meeting to demonstrate public concern for the need to improve the manner in which elected and appointed officials conduct city business.
The group presented concerns and recommendations. One recommendation was to conduct an organizational review of the city. The council took up the recommendation and voted Monday night to issue requests for proposals from firms interested in doing the review.
Toward the end of the nearly two-hour meeting, Christianson said Moving Willmar Forward “was simply a special interest group/political action committee’’ that unsuccessfully tried to affect the outcome of the Nov. 6 council election. In the city races, Bjur lost to incumbent council member Tim Johnson and Lawton lost to incumbent council member Jim Dokken.
Christianson said the citizens group is trying to steer the council toward what the group thinks is best for Willmar.
“The most recent election saw two special interest group candidates run against council members Dokken and Johnson,’’ he said. “And the voters decided to keep Dokken and Johnson. This group has been promoting their own people to run for City Council. They lost and are apparently upset enough about it to subject all of us to their frustration. Now they’re continuing to do an end run around our constituents — which are the voters, our boss — but offering solutions to problems that don’t exist and partisan character attacks against the council.’’
Lawton denies he’s a special interest candidate.
“What special interest do I represent? I don’t represent any special interest other than the citizens of Willmar,’’ Lawton said.
Lawton said he did receive unsolicited advertising funds late in the November campaign from citizens and business people who wanted to help him.
“It was just a bunch of people that wanted to help me at the time,’’ he said.
Bjur, architect with Engan Associates of Willmar, said he is not affiliated with any special interest and is not affiliated with Moving Willmar Forward.
“I think that would be a false statement,’’ he said. “I’m not affiliated with anybody nor has anybody asked me to run to represent anybody. I would like to work professionally with the city as well. I’ve never said anything negative toward the City Council, even during my run.’’
Bjur said he does not have anything negative to say about Christianson or Johnson or anybody on the council.
“My focus has always been positive statements and running a positive campaign and looking to the future of Willmar,’’ he said. “I’ve never wanted to ever run a negative campaign.’’