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Published February 11 2010

Thorstad running for West Fargo mayor

West Fargo residents will have a choice between mayoral candidates for the first time since 1998.

Commissioner Mike Thorstad plans to challenge incumbent Mayor Rich Mattern in the June election, making for West Fargo’s first competitive mayor’s race in 12 years.

Mattern, 58, ran unopposed when he first ran for mayor in 2002 and, again, when he won re-election in 2006.

Thorstad, 52, has served on the City Commission since 2008, when he ousted incumbent Brenda Warren.

The local businessman said he would bring his management and financial experience to the seat if elected.

Thorstad has a partnership in DSI Automotive Products, and he and his wife, Mona, own Sign Pro in West Fargo.

Thorstad said he wants to see West Fargo move in a different direction, with the city’s government structure growing as the city has done.

“There are a lot of things coming down the pike, which are going to require additional infrastructure and changes,” such as a proposed water treatment plant, Thorstad said. “We’re not a small entity anymore, and we need to position ourselves to operate as a larger entity and do a better job.”

Mattern said he doesn’t understand Thorstad’s position.

“I really don’t know in his mind what that means,” Mattern said. “I think we certainly are a growing city, and we’ve made changes through the years to reflect that change.”

Facing his first contested mayoral bid, Mattern said he plans to step up his approach in reaching out to voters.

“If that’s what he wants to do, I certainly respect that,” Mattern said of Thorstad’s bid. “I will certainly do my best to be re-elected.”

Thorstad said he expects a competitive race, but stressed that he’s running to win the seat, not challenge Mattern.

“We certainly disagree on certain things and management styles, and that’s the way it should be,” Thorstad said. “We should have different opinions and different ideas on how things should be done, and that’s why you have a commission – because if we all agreed on everything, I guess we wouldn’t need a commission.”

“I’m sure we all feel the same way: We want the best for West Fargo, and we just have different ideas on how to achieve that,” he added.

Thorstad plans to file the rest of his election paperwork by Friday.

Other open positions on West Fargo’s June 8 ballot are two commission seats, three Park Board seats and municipal judge.

Candidates must file for office by 4 p.m. April 9 at West Fargo City Hall, 800 4th Ave. E.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541