Willmar School Board members hope to guide district through the pandemic, return to earlier priorities of achievement gap, school addition

Willmar School District awarded another four years on the School Board to the four incumbents in Tuesday's election. Mike Reynolds, Scott Thaden, Justin Bos and Tammy Barnes will each serve another term.

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WILLMAR — The four incumbents re-elected to the Willmar School Board Tuesday are looking forward to getting the district through the pandemic and returning to issues that were their focus before last spring.

They vote totals for the re-elected incumbents are Mike Reynolds, 6,254 votes; Scott Thaden, 5,352 votes; Justin Bos, 5,497 votes; and Tammy Barnes, 5,275 votes.

Other candidates were Randy Frederickson, 3,784 votes; David Ditmarson, 2,688 votes; and Terry Lawler, 2,356 votes.

Nadia Milani Fifita withdrew from the race in October, but it was too late to remove her name from the ballot. She received 2,194 votes.

While results are unofficial and Minnesota will accept absentee ballots, postmarked by Election Day, through Nov. 10, Kandiyohi County officials have said they expect very few additional ballots to arrive.


The issue of the pandemic ran through the incumbents’ remarks late last week.

Reynolds, who is the board chairman and its longest serving member, said he hopes to maintain the school district’s financial health during the pandemic.

“As we go forward, I hope we can start growing again and working on the achievement gap, what we were focusing on before,” he said.

The district has improved its ability to deliver instruction online, he said, but it can’t replace having children in classrooms with their teachers.

“Hopefully, we won’t have to rely on it a lot longer,” he said. “As long as we do, we’re making the best of it.”

Thaden, Bos and Barnes are finishing their first full terms on the board.

“I think we have an excellent board, we work well together,” Thaden said. “I think the future’s bright for Willmar Schools as soon as we get out of (the pandemic).”

Bos said he looked forward to being able to return to issues like a planned Middle School addition that was sidelined when the coronavirus began spreading earlier this year.


“I think the fact all four incumbents got re-elected shows that we ... are moving the district in the right direction,” he said.

Barnes said she felt the district was handling the pandemic quite well when compared with others, and she felt the re-election of the incumbents would provide stability on the board.

Through the development of a strategic plan and action plan in recent years, “we’ve done a pretty in-depth look at where we want to go and what are the needs of our students,” she said.

The Middle School addition is still on the priority list, she said, even though it had to be put off in the past year.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
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