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City Council elects Anderson acting mayor in event of Willmar, Minn., mayor's’s absence

WILLMAR — Willmar City Council members held their biennial organizational meeting this week and elected Denis Anderson as acting mayor for 2013 and 2014.

After every general election, the eight-member council elects an acting mayor and committee chairs, and appoints committee vice chairs and liaisons to various committees and boards.

The elections and appointments took place during the 6 p.m. reorganizational meeting and were approved by resolution during the regular 7 p.m. meeting Monday.

The city charter provides that in the absence or disability of the mayor, an acting mayor shall be appointed by the council.

Anderson replaces Doug Reese who resigned his Ward 4 seat and was elected to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners. The remaining two years of Reese’s four-year term will be filled by either Jay Lawton or Audrey Nelsen. Both are candidates in a Feb. 12 special election.

Traditionally, the senior council member has been elected acting mayor and Reese had served the longest with 26 years.

This time, the post did not go to the council member with the most seniority. Those expressing interest were Anderson, who has served 14 years, Bruce DeBlieck, who has 22 years, Rick Fagerlie, who has 20 years, and Ron Christianson who has 18 years.

All said during the reorganizational meeting that they have the time and interest to serve. Anderson said he would abide by the council’s decision. Fagerlie said he’s approachable and that people speak to him. DeBlieck said he would enjoy serving and has served the longest. Christianson said he is called by residents of other wards to help solve problems and said he can represent Willmar is a positive manner.

The other three council members also were in attendance: Jim Dokken, who has 14 years of service on the council, Steve Ahmann, who has 12 years, and Tim Johnson, who has four years.

Johnson nominated Christianson, Anderson nominated Fagerlie, Ahmann nominated DeBlieck, and DeBlieck nominated Anderson.

Council members at first said they thought they could conduct the election by secret ballot as in the past. But City Attorney Robert Scott said the meeting was open and required open votes.

Council members first voted by voice vote, then DeBlieck requested roll call votes.

Anderson was elected 4-3 with Anderson, Johnson, Fagerlie and DeBlieck in favor and Christianson, Ahmann and Dokken against.

Christianson was defeated 3-4 with Christianson, Johnson and Dokken in favor and Anderson, Ahmann, Fagerlie and DeBlieck against.

Fagerlie was also defeated 3-4 with Fagerlie, Ahmann and DeBlieck in favor and Christianson, Johnson, Dokken and Anderson against.

DeBlieck was defeated 1-6 with DeBlieck in favor and other council members against.

Later during the regular meeting, Ahmann raised concerns about the voting procedure used during the earlier reorganizational meeting. Ahmann said he was not aware that council members could vote more than once for a candidate for acting mayor.

Scott said candidates were nominated and a roll call vote was taken in each case, and he thought the consensus was whoever tallied the most votes in favor was elected.

City Clerk Kevin Halliday said that each nomination was a separate motion and that each was voted on by all seven council members.

Scott said the voting procedure was not agreed to in advance but said it was something he thought the council could work through as a whole. He said each nomination was a separate motion and he was not concerned with whether council members had voted for more than one member.

If the council was concerned with the process, the council could vote again, said Scott.

Christianson said he was uncomfortable with using a voice vote rather than secret ballot and he did not like the way it was done with four separate motions for four separate people. He said using a secret ballot was a little more civil.

Scott said the nominating procedure may not have been the cleanest, but he said the council could defeat the resolution to elect Anderson.

Yanish called for roll call vote and the resolution to elect Anderson the acting mayor was approved 5-2 with Johnson, Dokken, Fagerlie, DeBlieck and Anderson in favor and Christianson and Ahmann opposed.

Dan Burdett

Dan Burdett is the community content coordinator at the West Central Tribune. He has 13 years experience in print media, to include four years enlisted service in the United States Air Force. He has been an employee of Forum Communications since 2005, joining the company after spending two years as the managing editor of the Redwood Gazette and Livewire in Redwood Falls. Prior to his current position, Dan was the presentation editor at the Tribune.

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