A distinct choice for mayor awaits Willmar voters

WILLMAR -- There is a marked difference between the two candidates for mayor of Willmar -- Marv Calvin and Steve Peppin -- one voters will have to decide on when they cast their ballots Nov. 6.


WILLMAR - There is a marked difference between the two candidates for mayor of Willmar - Marv Calvin and Steve Peppin - one voters will have to decide on when they cast their ballots Nov. 6.

Calvin is the current mayor and is running for his second, and last, term. "My leadership, vision and collaboration will take us to the next step."

Peppin, a Willmar business owner is making his second run at elected office. He unsuccessfully ran for Willmar City Council in 2016.

"I want to give people hope and inspire people," Peppin said.

Marv Calvin


Calvin grew up in Willmar, graduated from Willmar High School and married his high school sweetheart. They raised two children and now have five grandchildren. Calvin has worked in the fire service and as a paramedic, most recently serving as Willmar's first full-time fire chief and fire marshal before he retired.

In 2013, with the city in some turmoil, Calvin said people started asking him to run for mayor. To do so, he and his family had to sell their home near Lake Andrew and move back to the city. Calvin said they made that life-changing decision because they wanted to help change the narrative of Willmar, from negative to positive.

"We wanted Willmar to be a better place," Calvin said.

Calvin feels his 30 years working in government gives him the experience to be able to help lead Willmar into the future. While he says the first two years of his first term were rocky, he believes the last two have seen a positive shift. He named development in the Industrial Park and along First Street as well as new housing projects as examples of that success.

"I think that comes from leadership. That cannot be underplayed," Calvin said.

A success he wishes had been achieved in his first term was a large industry moving to town, with hundreds of new jobs on multiple pay levels.

"We need to bring new jobs. We need the housing, we need the child care, and that will bring the jobs," Calvin said.

A lesson he has learned in his first term is how to listen better. He said he now takes the time to understand where someone is coming from. This helps him build a consensus and move matters forward to a decision.


"That is not always easy, especially when you have eight different ideas," Calvin said, referring to the eight members of the City Council.

Willmar is a charter city and the charter lays out a weak mayor-strong council style of government. While that means the council has the final say on most issues facing the city, Calvin does not believe it means the mayor is just a figurehead.

"We have a weak mayor, that doesn't mean a silent mayor. The community wants to know what the mayor thinks," Calvin said.

Calvin also does not believe he is a bully, a criticism he has been hearing.

"Anyone who knows me knows I am not a bully. Do I have an opinion, you bet. Will I share my opinion, in a heartbeat. That doesn't make me a bully," Calvin said.

Steve Peppin

Peppin, a father of four with his fiancee, says he has been turning his life around, giving back and trying to make amends for mistakes made during his younger years since he moved to Willmar several years ago.

He doesn't shy away from his past. As a young adult in the Twin Cities, Peppin was involved in a rash of robberies in North Minneapolis and was convicted of four counts of felony aggravated robbery in the first degree. He was sentenced to several years in prison.


"A lot of people know I went in, but they don't know what I've done since," said Peppin.

While serving his prison sentence, Peppin earned his master barber license. When he was released, Peppin came to Willmar and Ridgewater College, which gave him the opportunity to go to school and play football.

In the years following, Peppin opened several of his own businesses, with mixed success. Today he owns Pep's Barber Shop and a tattoo parlor.

He acknowledges he has made some business mistakes. The Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission this year wrote off as uncollectible $7,766 of a loan it had made to Peppin for his barber shop. Peppin said he is working to pay back all the debt.

"I am in the pursuit of taking care of all of these, making things right," Peppin said.

Peppin has two main visions for Willmar's future. The first is to bring higher-paying manufacturing and industrial jobs to Willmar. He is not sure how to do it, but believes it will help Willmar grow as a city. This could mean continuing to use tools like tax abatement to bring big players to the table.

"It would change the economy. It is not a quick fix, it would take time," Peppin said.

His second focus is increasing activities for teenagers and young adults in the city. This is why he supports the proposed local option sales tax, which if approved in November will raise funds for a new recreation center and sports fields. Peppin feels having these amenities could help reduce crime and drug use in the community.


"Let's care about these kids, give them something to do," Peppin said.

If elected mayor, Peppin said he will be a mayor that works within the responsibilities given to him by the city charter. He also plans to work as part of a team.

"I would ultimately rely on my team, the people I sit with, which is the City Council," Peppin said. "I would be a mayor that believes in teamwork and not overstepping my bounds. I don't like micromanaging people."

He also says he wants to be a mayor for all people, no matter their backgrounds. Peppin wants to continue to give back to the community that has given him a second chance, so he can do the same for other people.

"My heart and passion is helping people," Peppin said. "I stand for the people, that is why I am here."

Up to the people

Both candidates, despite their differences, agree on one thing. The citizens of Willmar need to get out the vote.

Peppin said voting is a way to show respect for not only you, but your families, city, country and those fighting for that freedom.


"Every single one of your votes matter," Peppin said. "It really does matter."

In Calvin's opinion, the choice of mayor this November comes down to one idea.

"If you like what is going on in Willmar, vote for me. If you don't like what is going on in Willmar and you want a change, vote for my opponent," Calvin said. "No matter what you do, get out and vote."

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email or direct 320-214-4373.

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