Willmar Ward 2 voters face the choice of incumbent Steve Gardner or challenger Tim Johnson. This Willmar City Council race will be a decision about the future or single-issue politics.
The West Central Tribune believes Ward 2 residents should re-elect Gardner to the City Council.
A longtime resident of Willmar, Johnson is a public defender attorney. He has also been a city attorney in several cities. Johnson's primary criticism of his opponent has been for Gardner's vote for the Westwind project. Westwind has been decided and construction has begun on the project. Westwind critics, including Johnson and his friend Councilmen Ron Christianson, claim Westwind was solely a land use issue and that the city's legal exposure was serious.
The reality is the city faced a major lawsuit with legal costs that could have exceeded $1 million, potential damages exceeding more than $5 million, faced likely state and federal injunctions controlling city housing and zoninge for several years. In addition, the city also could have lost its legal insurance coverage and been forced with significantly higher insurance costs.
Johnson naively believes the city's legal exposure was not significantly and that the city's legal advice was faulty. The facts are the legal exposure was significant as the city would have lost the case and faced significant damages. In addition, Christianson's own Westwind intolerance lies in his own failure to obtain the property for his own development plans and his own failure to get the neighborhood properly rezoned to protect the neighborhood's single-family homes.
There is more to serving on the City Council than this one issue.
Gardner has done a good job and he is extremely hard-working. He is conscientious and sincere. He strives to find workable solutions, not just lay blame as others.
He successfully opposed the proposed salvage yard in Ward 2. He has supported library funding and the downtown rejuvenation. He knows how to work professionally and constructively with the rest of city -- the City Council, city staff and the public, in spite of both uncivil and hateful comments towards both him and his family in the past year.
Throughout the past year, Gardner has remained a civil, hard working and dedicated elected official and he deserves re-election. The West Central Tribune endorses Gardner for re-election in Ward 2.