Special election set in 2013 for Willmar, Minn., Ward Four seat
This story has been corrected to show Feb. 12 is the date of the special election.
WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council on Monday night accepted the resignation of Ward Four council member Doug Reese, who was elected to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners in the Nov. 6 general election. Reese's resignation is effective Dec. 31, 2012.
Reese is completing his 26th year on the council and has two years remaining in the current four-year term. Mayor Frank Yanish thanked Reese for his service.
The City Charter specifies occurrences under which the office of a council member becomes vacant, including resignation.
If the vacancy occurs more than one year before the end of the term, the office is to be filled by a special election, said City Clerk Kevin Halliday.
After accepting the resignation, the council declared the vacancy will exist at the end of the year and voted to set Feb. 12 as the date for the special election.
In addition, the council accepted Halliday's recommendation under charter rules and state election rules to set the two-week time period for filing affidavits of candidacy from 8 a.m. Dec. 4 through 5 p.m. Dec. 18.
During an additional 10-day period, Halliday said staff will print ballots and he said there is a 46-day period to have the ballots in staff hands to be sent out for absentee voting.
With all those time frames and knowing that the federal law requires the city to have a voting system that is accessible for individuals with disabilities, Halliday said the city will follow all the regulations of holding a normal election with the same equipment in the three precincts of the Fourth Ward.
Ballots will be cast at the usual polling places at Redeemer Lutheran Church, First Baptist Church and Calvary Lutheran Church. Staff at those churches have said the churches are open to hold the election, Halliday said.
"We see no reason why we can't conduct that expeditiously on Feb. 12,'' Halliday said.
Council member Denis Anderson asked if there was provision for a primary election.
Halliday said he could not find anything and said he believes the winner is the top vote-getter.
"If we had nine people filling out an affidavit, it would be the top vote-getter,'' Halliday said.
Reese has been elected by the council for a number of years as mayor pro tempore to serve in the temporary absence or disability of the mayor. Reese also serves as chair of the council's Public Works/Safety Committee.
Council member Ron Christianson asked if setting the election date prior to Jan. 1, 2013, is legal.
Halliday said that that's his interpretation of all the rules, but he deferred to City Attorney Robert Scott, who said it was perfectly appropriate for the council to declare the vacancy to exist, effective Dec. 31.
In other business, the council approved a recommendation by City Administrator Charlene Stevens and the Labor Relations Committee to appoint Gary Hendrickson of Rockford as fire chief/fire marshal.
Stevens told the committee Nov. 8 that five candidates had been interviewed to fill the position that was vacated by the resignation of Marv Calvin in early August.
According to Stevens, the city received over 30 applicants and she said the applicant pool was very strong. Five candidates were interviewed by Stevens, Police Chief David Wyffels, Willmar Ambulance Service Director Brad Hanson, firefighter Gaiwin Koostra and retired Alexandria Fire Chief Shane Schmidt.
Hendrickson's appointment will be effective Jan. 7, 2013, at an annual salary of $75,000. Also, he will be assigned a vehicle and receive a $3,000 relocation allowance. Calvin was earning $91,555 when he retired, according to Stevens.
Hendrickson has served as assistant director of emergency management at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis since March 2009. He also served as paid on-call firefighter and hazardous materials coordinator for the city of Plymouth, and served as paid on-call firefighter for the city of Brooklyn Park.
He also served as state emergency response asset coordinator in the division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
He holds a fire science degree from Hennepin Technical College and bachelor of science fire science degree from Columbia Southern University, and holds additional certificates and licenses.
Calvin is serving as fire liaison for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Fire Consortium, working with fire educators, program managers and MnSCU deans of fire training at Ridgewater College in Willmar.