Nancy Edmonds Hanson
When Johnathan Judd called the Moorhead city council to order at 5:30 this week, he was performing the mayoral duties that have marked every other Monday since he took over the city’s top elective office two years ago.
But by the time he gaveled the meeting to a close, he was something new: the latest judge named to the bench in Minnesota’s 7th Judicial District.
Shortly after the meeting had begun, Gov. Tim Walz announced that he had named Judd to succeed Judge Barbara Hanson, who retired in October. He will take her place in the courtrooms of Fergus Falls.
Judd gave no sign of the good news during the council meeting. Indeed, observers say he didn’t receive official word until later that evening. But the change has profound implications for Moorhead’s city government in weeks to come.
According to manager Dan Mahli, the city’s charter lays out procedures to be employed during this kind of transition. The timing of Judd’s resignation and the council’s next moves will be discussed at its regular meeting Feb. 8.
According to the charter, after a declaration of vacancy is announced, an interim mayor shall be chosen from among current members of the council, with a majority vote required to appoint one of their number to the position. In turn, that member’s seat will become open, probably to be filled by appointment. Voters will elect the next regular mayor and council member at the next city election. At this point, that’s the general election in 2022.
Judd was elected in November 2018 with 51% of the vote in a field of three mayoral candidates. A graduate of Fargo North High School, North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota Law School, he has worked as an attorney in private practice and as a public defender. He has also served as Concordia College’s director of multicultural affairs and, for the past year, director of equity and inclusion at M State. He and his wife Tammi Fortney, a school psychologist at Moorhead High and the Vista Center, have three children.