Three mayoral candidates and eight candidates for city council shared their vision for Moorhead last Thursday at a voter forum at the Moorhead library.
More than 120 people attended the event, which was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley, a non-profit, non-partisan organization.
The general election is November 6.
Community activist and consulting firm owner Newzad Brifki, two-term Third Ward city councilwoman and small business owner Brenda Elmer and lawyer and former assistant Clay County Attorney Johnathan Judd are running for mayor. They fielded questions submitted by the audience at the forum.
Judd, a father of three who graduated from North Dakota State University with degrees in political science and history and also earned a law degree at University of North Dakota, said he’s got the right community experience for the job.
“I’d like to take all the ideas I’m learning about and take it to the next level,” he said.
Elmer, a mother of three who fills in as mayor pro tem when Mayor Del Rae Williams is away, said she’d like to continue to serve the people of Moorhead, albeit in a different capacity.
“It’s been really an honor to serve,” she said. “I’m running because we are on the cusp of some really great things in Moorhead and I’d like to continue that.”
Brifki is a father of three who earned his undergraduate degree at Minnesota State University Moorhead and a master’s of business administration degree at the University of Mary.
One audience member asked how the candidates would engage college students since Moorhead is such a community of higher education.
Brifki said the city needs to connect the colleges with the downtown and provide more entertainment for college students in order to keep them here past graduation.
Elmer said she’d like to see more college students get involved by serving on city committees.
Judd echoed that notion.
“We need our college students to be engaged in some capacity,” he said. “We need to be sure we strengthen our connection with our college students.”
Another question focused on the city’s relationship with state and federal officials.
Judd said city leaders need to serve as advocates and ambassadors for Moorhead, with a focus on economic development.
Brifki said the city needs to focus on addressing the opioid epidemic and needs more border city funding from the state to remain competitive with Fargo.
“We need to be a more business friendly community,” he said.
Elmer agreed more border cities funding was needed to level the playing field.
“I know the legislative process,” she said. “I would use it a little more assertively than we have been.”
She added that Moorhead needs to focus on diversifying and strengthening its tax base.
“For me, economic development would be priority one,” she said.
Judd said economic development depends on relationship building and he said he has the right leadership style to accomplish it.
“My leadership style is one that is consensus building,” he said. “I’m not going to have the answers for everything but I like creative tension …That’s how good decisions are made. I know there are people who are smarter than me and I listen to what they have to tell me.”
Elmer said her leadership style is to surround herself with people who have different views than her.
“Also, I’m a workhorse not a showhorse,” she said.
Brifki said his leadership style is that of a visionary.
“I have a vision, a plan for the city of Moorhead and I’m a nice guy,” he said. “I include everyone, I will unite everyone and I will improve the city of Moorhead.”
Asked what his 100 day plan is for the city of Moorhead, Judd said he planned to listen and learn, building relationships, trust and rapport with council, city staff and the community.
Brifki said he would try to learn as much from Mayor Williams as he could. He also said he would meet with city leaders to identify priorities and he would start work on the 11th Street underpass immediately.
“That’s going to be a lot to chew on in the first 100 days, but I have a plan and let’s get to work,” he said.
Elmer said she would focus on a legislative priority list, get to know city staff and sit down with the new council to build relationships.
City council races
In Ward 1, lifelong ward resident and MSUM grad Shelly Dahlquist is facing off against Riley Maanum, who works on policy that affects rural Minnesota with the Minnesota Farm Bureau.
Dahlquist said she would focus on downtown redevelopment, keep salaries competitive for police officers and would listen to the concerns of her constituents.
Maanum said he would also work on economic development, increase tax incentives, focus on reducing or maintaining property taxes and provide leadership on the 11th Street underpass project.
In a three way Ward 2 race, Shelly Carlson, Ben Hammer and Drew Sandberg, an Air Force vet and data analyst, are competing for votes.
Carlson, a paralegal, was out of town on business so she delivered a video address to the audience.
“I’m running for Moorhead City Council because I have a strong commitment to public service,” she said, adding that she would focus on continuing the momentum in downtown redevelopment, fully funding the police department and perhaps building a new southside fire station.
Hammer didn’t attend the voter forum or provide a statement.
Sandberg said he would increase the resources and expand the role of the economic development authority, focus on improving the Center Avenue corridor, work to increase the city’s tax base and add funding for the police department.
Businessman Karl E. Deilke, Air Force vet and real estate agent Troy Krabbenhoft and MSUM sociology professor Deb White are squaring off for a Ward 3 council seat.
“I believe because of my business experience, I will be able to facilitate a lot of business transactions within the city of Moorhead,” Deilke said. He said he’d create more incentives for small businesses, making business his top priority, and work toward funding the 11th Street underpass project.
Krabbenhoft said Moorhead needs to embrace its identity as a college town.
“Hopefully, we can keep the kids in Moorhead to stay here and create their own family here,” he said. He added Moorhead needs to keep competitive police officer pay and look at building another fire station.
White said the city needs to work at more strategic planning to create a walkable urban environment downtown. It also needs to lobby the legislature for more local government aid and better border cities legislation, she said.
“I’ll bring people together,” she said. “We are here to serve you and we need to do everything we can to serve the people of Moorhead.
In the Ward 4 race, real estate broker Marc Hedlund is facing incumbent Chuck Hendrickson, a program manager for a Microsoft vendor.
Hedlund said Moorhead needs to continue to revitalize downtown for residents and college students alike. He also said he’d look at filling the large vacant retail spaces (Sam’s Club, Family Fare, Herberger’s) and continue to grow residential areas of Moorhead.
“I feel like we’re on the cusp on the economic side of something great,” he said.
Hedlund supports reducing some of the strict standards to become a Moorhead police officer in order to fill vacant positions.
Hendrickson said he thinks the city needs to create a one-stop shop for economic development instead of a scattered array of programs. He said the city should focus on infrastructure improvement, such as a new transfer station, finalizing the 20/21 Street underpass funding and creating affordable housing for college students and seniors.
“I think my experience will help the city moving forward,” he said.
All city council candidates said they support completing the F-M Diversion project for permanent flood protection.