Willmar Ward 1: There are two candidates — Les Heitke and Michael O’Brien — running for the City Council spot held by Kathy Schwantes, who did not seek re-election. Both have a record of public service and are qualified candidates.

Les Heitke Jr.
Les Heitke Jr.
Heitke has served six years on the Willmar City Council and 16 years as Willmar’s mayor. And he has served on numerous boards and committees, including Rice Memorial Hospital board, Rice Hospital Foundation board and Kandiyohi County and City Economic Development Commission Operations Board.

O’Brien served 17 years as a conservation officer in Kandiyohi County. He has served on the New London-Spicer School Board and the Southwest West Central Cooperative Board, and he currently serves on the Willmar School Board. He is a U.S veteran.

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Heitke is the better choice among the two. He has two decades of city service, multiple years of creating a city budget, and most importantly, understands how a city should work. He is a man committed to public service and knows how to work collaboratively. He knows and understands city government and issues very well. And he is very well-respected among city and state government circles in the state, which would be beneficial.

As the leading Ward 1 vote recipient in the August primary, Heitke is the strongest and most experienced candidate in this race.

The West Central Tribune endorses Les Heitke for the open Ward 1 City Council seat.

Julie Asmus
Julie Asmus
Willmar Ward 2: Julie Asmus has continued her long public service in her role as the Ward 2 City Council member in Willmar. She deserves re-election for representing Ward 2 residents.







Willmar Ward 3: This race has Justin Ask and Zeke Dahl seeking the seat left open when Fernando Alvarado did not seek re-election and chose instead to run for the state Senate District 17 seat. Voters’ choice in this race is clear.

Justin Ask
Justin Ask
Ask has been the lead pastor at Vinje Lutheran Church since 2016. He is involved in public service with the Willmar Interfaith Network and serves on numerous boards, including that of Green Lake Lutheran Ministries. He sees strength in the diversity of Willmar.

Dahl is an unqualified candidate. He has a criminal record, including a 2011 felony check forgery conviction for stealing $8,000 from his grandmother and a 2014 gross misdemeanor for being a felon in possession of a firearm. He didn’t learn. In January, he was convicted of misdemeanor theft related to check fraud. In addition, at the September candidate forum, he called the coronavirus pandemic threat “all bull****, because of the election.” The City Council does not need an individual who does not follow the law or believe in good public health.

The West Central Tribune endorses Justin Ask for the Ward 3 City Council seat.



Willmar Ward 4 features Tom Butterfield versus Hans Hibma.

Butterfield first ran for the City Council seat in 2015 and lost by a significant margin to Shawn Mueske in that race. A longtime Willmar resident, he is a single father and said he is active in the Fathers’ Rights Movement. He is a Willmar Vocational School

Hans Hibma
Hans Hibma
graduate. He tends to be an antagonist, especially toward local legislators and those who do not agree with him. He is also basically a one-issue candidate.

Hibma grew up on a Hutchinson area farm and has lived in Willmar for 10 years. He is the Restore manager for Habitat for Humanity of West Central Minnesota. He supports investing in road and transportation infrastructure in the city. He would like to see a new city hall downtown but is open to the Willmar Ten Investment group’s proposal for the former JCPenney location. He would also bring another younger-generation voice to the City Council, which would be beneficial, and he could share unique viewpoints and experiences. The time is here to give a young leader in this city a shot.

The West Central Tribune endorses Hans Hibma for the Ward 4 City Council seat.



This editorial is the opinion of the West Central Tribune Editorial Board, consisting of publisher Steve Ammermann and editor Kelly Boldan. Readers may respond by sending a letter by Noon Oct. 30 to: letters@wctrib.com.