Ward 3’s Seljevold – ‘Potholes, Planning, Public Safety and Parks’

Larry Seljevold
Ward 3

Moorhead City Council

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

Getting To Know the Council: This is the fifth in a series of Extra profiles on members of the Moorhead City Council.
Larry Seljevold was elected to the Moorhead City Council in 1997. But when his current term ends on Dec. 31, he will have represented Ward 3 in the southwest sector of the city for a total of nine years. The math isn’t quite that simple.
“I’d been on the Citizens Advisory Council in the ’90s. I thought serving on the council would be interesting, so I threw my hat in the ring,” the retired physical education teacher and coach remembers. “My wife’s father, Dwaine Hoberg, had been mayor back in the 1970s. He encouraged me.
“He said you need to go door to door to meet the voters, so that’s what I did. On the weekend before the election, it was snowing hard. One fellow came to the door, looked outside, and told me, ‘If you’re out in this weather to get my vote, I’m voting for you.’”
Whether it was the braving the weather or his genial personality, Seljevold topped the tally. He defeated incumbent Dr. John Thomas and went on to serve for the next four years. But then he called it quits, declining to seek reelection. Instead, he spent the summer bicycling from coast to coast with his son Lars after the younger Spud’s graduation from Moorhead High School, where Dad had gotten his own diploma in 1974.
But serving on the council had left an indelible mark on the elder Seljevold. Almost two decades later, after retiring from a career spent in the classroom, he would make his comeback.
It was in 2019. When Ward 3 councilman Joel Paulsen resigned in 2019, vacating one of Ward 3’s two seats at the council table, Seljevold again stepped forward. “I’d enjoyed serving my first term. I’d retired that spring, and now I had the time. I thought, ‘Let’s try it again,’” he explains. Facing not one but four opponents this time around, he still was easily elected to complete the year remaining in Paulsen’s term. One year later, the voters elected him to a second full four-year term … 14 years after finishing his first.
That seat will again be open this November. “I’m not running for reelection,” Seljevold says. “Now my wife Karen is retired, too, and we’d like to do more traveling – visit our children, get some skiing in.” Son Lars, his wife Nikki and their daughters, 7 and 2, live in Colorado. Daughter Maren is in Portland, Oregon.
Seljevold has called Moorhead home since junior high, when his father, Phil, joined the school system to teach elementary physical education and coach at the high school. The elder Seljevold was named athletic director in 1968, a position he held for the next 21 years.
Larry’s career would parallel his father’s, though teaching wasn’t his original intent – anything but that. “I wrote a paper in ninth grade about becoming a Lutheran minister, and for awhile I thought about being a mortician,” he confides. But when he enrolled at Concordia College, he chose to major in elementary education. After seven years teaching in West Fargo, he added a master’s in physical education from North Dakota State University.
Both avid skiers, he and wife Karen spent the next year in Sun River, Montana, before returning to Moorhead. Larry joined the Fargo school system, teaching phy ed at Ben Franklin Junior High School and coaching track at Fargo North. He would spend the rest of his career teaching and coaching youth, moving from Ben Franklin to Bennett Elementary, Woodrow Wilson High School and Jefferson Elementary School.
During his first term on the Moorhead council, Seljevold says, he learned a valuable lesson about public service: “You don’t have to be a genius or know everything when you start out. You learn as you go along. The most important thing you can have is an open mind.
“With the city council, it doesn’t matter if you’re liberal or conservative. That’s not what you’re there for. It’s not politics. After all, who’s in favor of potholes?”
Two decades ago, he says the council’s focus was much the same as it is today. “The four P’s – potholes, planning, public safety and parks,” he sums it up. “It’s just common sense. What’s going to make the city a better place to live in? That’s what people care about the most.”
His freshman term was marked by debate over whether the city should build a convention center, a proposal he opposed. It ultimately failed. “I thought that kind of development should be left to private industry,” he remembers, pointing to the facility today at the Courtyard by Marriott. “Once in awhile, the discussion could get a little heated. But then, as now, the city council is generally very civil” … as opposed, he adds, “to other political bodies.”
Today, the issues he calls “the four P’s” remain at the top of the city council’s agenda. Seljevold’s official assignments also include serving on the Metro Flood Diversion Authority, the Moorhead-Clay County Joint Powers Authority and – perhaps closest to his heart – the Park Advisory Board.
“I’ve always believed that our parks are what’s going to draw in new families and keep property values up,” he muses. “We’ve lost the neighborhood schools that used to attract them. Now kids get on the bus and ride across town instead of walking to school. Our parks are going to be what attracts them to a neighborhood. We need more things for youngsters, like splash pads and other activities.
“Neighborhood parks are where parents of young kids are going to get to know each other and feel like they’re part of a community. They help immensely.”
What’s on the minds of his own neighbors in his last summer as their council member? “We need to get this flood thing done with,” their Ward 3 spokesman reports. “It’s been dragging on way too long. We need to get it finished up.”
And what might they be telling him in the months that lie ahead? “I just hope the mosquitoes don’t get too bad this summer,” he confides. “That’s when the phone begins to ring.”

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