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Editorial: Voters do have a race in Ward 2 primary in Willmar

The Aug. 12 primary has a political horse race for a Ward 2 seat on the Willmar City Council.

Former council member Steve Gardner and challenger Rich Taylor are running against incumbent Ron Christianson for this Ward 2 seat. The top two candidates in the Aug. 12 primary results will advance to the Nov. 4 election ballot.

The other Ward 2 councilman is Tim Johnson, whose term expires in 2017.

Christianson has served on the council since 1994. A graduate of Ridgewater College and a longtime Willmar resident, he is a co-owner of Christianson Brothers Construction of Willmar. He is also an Air Force veteran.

Gardner served on the Willmar City Council for four years. A graduate of Staples High School and a longtime Willmar resident, he is a document imaging sales specialist with Bennett Office Technologies of Willmar. He has also volunteered or served in leadership roles with the Humane Society of Kandiyohi and Meeker counties, Vision 2040, Barn Theatre and Holidaze Parade.

Taylor is running for political office for the first time. A graduate of New London-Spicer High School, he has graduated from Ridgewater College and Chamberlain College of Nursing. He works as a quality assurance and infection control director at Willmar Surgery Center.

Gardner and Taylor made an appearance Friday at a candidate forum sponsored by the Public Policy Committee of the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce.

Christianson was out of town and was not able to attend the candidate forum. He also did not respond to the committee's offer to submit written answers to the forum's question list. It was disappointing that the business community did not get a chance to hear from this candidate directly or indirectly.

Gardner and Taylor both discussed their interest in the city of Willmar and spoke of their desire to help move Willmar forward. Both said it was important council members work together toward a collective vision for the city of Willmar.

Both said there is a need for change in the Ward 2 representation on the council.

"The City Council must work together for the betterment of all in WIllmar," Gardner said. "The council's majority ... has caused chaos and dysfunction in Willmar's city government."

Taylor saidWard 2 needs a change of leadership. "The role of the council is to set policy," he said, and then let the city administrator and staff implement the policy.

Both Gardner and Taylor said that the role of the City Council is to work together, seek consensus and make policy decisions.

Willmar residents will get another chance to hear from the three Ward 2 candidates next week. The League of Women Voters of the Willmar Area will host a candidate forum at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Vinje Lutheran Church, 1101 Wilmar Ave. S.W.

The League is accepting questions for the Ward 2 Candidate Forum. Questions may be emailed to: lwvwillmarmn45 p.m. Tuesday.

All Willmar and area residents are encouraged to vote in the Aug. 12 primary for the candidates of their choice in the appropriate local and statewide races. Voters may register at their polling place on Aug. 12. For more information on registration, polling places or candidates, visit