Willmar voters will be electing four members to its City Council. The candidates are: Dennis Anderson in Ward 1; Tim Johnson and Andrew Bjur in Ward 2, Steve Ahmann in Ward 3 and Jim Dokken and Jay Lawton in Ward 4.
Ward 1: Anderson is running unopposed for re-election to this Ward 1 seat. He has served 14 years on the council and serves as chairman of the Finance Committee. He is retired from Jennie-O Turkey Store. He has displayed wisdom and leadership during his tenure and deserves re-election.
Ward 2: Bjur is challenging incumbent Johnson to represent this Ward 2 seat.
Bjur brings good enthusiasm and civic experience to the race. He has served on the Planning Commission and other boards and task forces. An architect at Engan Associates, he has a strong interest in energy conservation within the city and community. He is also has been a longtime advocate for park and trails development in the city and county. He has strong potential as a new Willmar leader but sometimes relies too much upon his energy conservation focus. We would like to see a wider spectrum in Bjur's ideas.
Johnson is completing his first term on the City Council. He has been the chief public defender for the 8th Judicial District and also has the experience of being the city attorney for several Kandiyohi County cities for 17 years. Johnson is concerned about the city's future budget as state aid funding may decline. Moreover, he understands conflicts of interest and the danger of putting council and/or city at risk. His weakness is he still remains too much of a follower at times. He needs to speak up more and become more of a leader on this council. The West Central Tribune recommends Johnson for re-election.
Ward 3: Ahmann is running unopposed for re-election for this Ward 3 seat. He has served from 1986 to 1994. He elected again in 2008 and chairs the Labor Relations Committee. He is a businessman as owner of Ahmann Construction. It was disappointing to see his "no" vote this summer with the "do-nothing" duo of Ron Christianson and Dokken against the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership's $3.6 million redevelopment proposal for the Lakeland Hotel in downtown Willmar. Running unopposed, he should be re-elected.
Ward 4: Lawton is challenging incumbent Dokken for this Ward 4 seat. This is a council seat that needs a change as Dokken often lacks a key ability to lead or inspire.
Dokken has served 14 years on the City Council. He is retired after military career in the U.S. Air Force and a private business career in Willmar. He is well-intended, but is short sighted, often becoming too focused on his own agenda or concepts. While he says the military is not a good example for city governance, he often brings up military practices as good examples for city staff.
This current council member does not work well at times with other government entities, especially if he doesn't agree with a proposal, and he often wears out his welcome with other government or civic organizations. At other times, he has interfered in community efforts, such as the former proposal to seek a veterans' mental health facility in Willmar.
His lack of vision was clearly demonstrated recently when he was the only "no" vote against the proposed Vision 2040 effort to identify priorities. As mentioned earlier, Dokken also voted this summer against the Lakeland Hotel redevelopment proposal in downtown Willmar.
Unfortunately, Dokken's leadership is not strong, often relying upon rhetoric and ideology. He is part of the City Council's perception problem with citizens, community and business leaders and other government leaders in Willmar and in west central Minnesota. Frankly, this is a growing problem impacting Willmar's image and stature.
Lawton is a military veteran, having served in the U.S. Navy. He would bring a fresh perspective of new leadership to the council. He is an inventory logistics coordinator with Jennie-O Turkey Store. He has significant civic experience having served on the Willmar Planning Commission, Mayor's Race Track Task Force and the Youth Anti-Smoking Coalition.
He has demonstrated good leadership in his civic experience and in his recreational sporting activities, including the Glacial Lakes Running Series. He believes in working and building relationships with city commissions and staff. He recognizes the change in Willmar and values the new immigrants and the contributions they bring to the city.
Lawton is a strong candidate for the City Council. He is part of the next generation of Willmar leaders, who will help bring a positive attitude and can make a solid council contribution. He should be elected to this Ward 4 seat.
The West Central Tribune believes electing Lawton and re-electing Anderson, Johnson and Ahmann will best serve Willmar in meeting city needs and building a better future.
Letters in response to this editorial will be accepted through 3 p.m. today. Send letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org.