moorhead city council
Nancy Edmonds Hanson
Monday night was a first-ever occasion in the story of Moorhead, as five of its previous mayors came together to witness the swearing in of Shelly Aasen Carlson as the 38th mayor in the city’s history.
Even more historic: The oath of office was administered by one of the five, Johnathan Judd, whose seat Carlson was appointed to fill in February 2021 after his appointment to the bench in the 7th Judicial District.
Present for the occasion were Wayne Ingersoll, the 33rd mayor in the Moorhead record books, who served in 1978-1979; Morris Lanning, the longest-serving top official in city history, who held the seat from 1980 to 2001; Mark Voxland, who presided from 2002 through 2013; Del Rae Williams, who wielded the gave3l from 2014 to 2018; and Judd, who was mayor from 2019 through Feb. 8, 2021.
Judd also administered the oath of office to newly elected Ward 1 council member Ryan Nelson and to Heather Nesemeier of Ward 2, who was elected to a first full term after her appointment to fill Carlson’s seat in early 2021. Two incumbents were reelected — Deb White, to her second term in Ward 3, and Chuck Hendrickson, now serving his third in Ward 4.
Commenting on her colleagues’ contributions, Carlson thanked them for attending the ceremony, then quipped, “I’m sure, Judge Judd, that you experienced the same level of excitement as you did swearing in Governor Walz last week!”
She said she has spoken with each of her five predecessors to understand the history of where Moorhead has been “in order to better navigate where we are going.”
Ingersoll, she said, was just 32 when he became mayor. Questioned about milestones during his tenure, he told her it was the Moorhead city staff “who did great things in spite of my being mayor, not because of it.” Carlson added that his tongue-in-cheek comment was apt, noting that some current staff members have worked under all six mayors.
Carlson observed that Lanning served three two-year terms on the council before being elected mayor in 1980. She credited him with moving Moorhead to the city manager form of government; prior to that move, 25 city employees reported directly to the council. Among the accomplishments of his term of service were a new wastewater treatment plant, the hotel-conference center, the building of city reserves, and development of neighborhood block clubs.
Voxland, the second-longest-serving mayor in city history, spearheaded $100 million in flood mitigation measures after the city experienced two devastating floods. The local protection was initiated years before the joint powers agreement for the Metro Flood Diversion was signed. He was also instrumental in encouraging the development of more housing of every kind, from apartments and condos to twin homes and single-family dwellings.
She noted that the two female mayors in city history, Williams and herself, share much in common: Both are married to men named Ron and come from Minot. On a more serious note, she pointed out that the city’s two major underpass projects both started under Williams’ leadership, as well as the art and culture commission and entry into the state’s Green Step Cities project. Moorhead reached level 5, the top score in environmental resiliency, last year.
As for Judd’s tenure, she cited his leadership as the city, along with the rest of the state, was plunged into the most severe worldwide pandemic in modern history. “He was also at the helm during a time when historic civil unrest occurred in our community,” Carlson added. “Johnathon demonstrated what leadership look like during uncertain times. He was the absolute right person at the right time.”
She concluded with the city’s gratitude for their leadership, past and present. “I stand on your collective shoulders,” she said, “and I promise you and the citizens of Moorhead that I’ll do my very best to continue this incredible legacy.”