City council seeks candidates for two open seats

Two seats will be open on Moorhead’s City Council later this month — Ward 3 member Joel Paulsen’s and Ward 4 member Steve Gehrke’s. From left: Shelly Dahlquist, Sara Watson Curry, Shelly Carlson, Heidi Durand, Mayor Johnathan Judd, Paulsen, Deb White, Gehrke and Chuck Hendrickson. (Photo/Nancy Hanson)

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

The Moorhead City Council entered virtually uncharted territory last week when they accepted the resignation of a second member of the eight-person board.
Joel Paulsen, who has represented Ward 3 in the southwestern quarter of the city, tendered his resignation July 31. Paulsen has been selected as the first executive director of the F-M Diversion Authority. His resignation takes effect Aug. 31. The civil engineer is currently senior associate in international consulting firm Stantec’s Fargo office.
Ward 4 council member Steve Gehrtz resigned in June, effective Aug. 15. He cited the pressures of business and personal reasons. He is president of Gehrtz Construction Services, which is involved in major projects in Moorhead, West Fargo and Detroit Lakes. Ward 4 encompasses most of southeast Moorhead.
Both men’s terms were to expire at the end of 2020. Gehrtz was elected in 2011 and reelected in 2016. Paulsen, also a victor in 2016, is in his first four-year term.
Council members unanimously favored leaving the two seats vacant until the special election Nov. 5, in which Moorhead residents are expected to vote on a substantial construction bond issue for Moorhead High School. In choosing to delay filling the two positions, several cited citizens’ dissatisfaction in 2016 when, after Jim Haney’s resignation, the council appointed Melissa Fabian to replace him from among a large number of applicants. Fabian herself resigned last year when her family moved out of the area; the second Ward 2 seat remained empty until the 2018 general election, when voters chose Shelly Carlson.
Four candidates had filed for the open seats by Tuesday. They include Jon Bell, office manager for St. John’s Lutheran Church, in Ward 3, and three men in Ward 4: Ryan Larson, a heavy-equipment trainer for Butler Machinery; James McInstra, a housing support case manager for Churches United for the Homeless; and Eric Smith, who has appeared before the council several times this summer.
Candidates may file to run for either seat through 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 12, at the city clerk’s offic on the third floor of City Hall. They must complete an Affidavit of Candidacy and pay a filing fee of $5. More information is available online at The winners will serve through the end of Paulen’s and Gehrtz’s terms on Dec. 31, 2020.

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