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Published February 18 2010

Ekstrom exit opens door for Williams

One of two incumbents standing in the way of Fargo City Commissioner Mike Williams’ bid for a seat in the North Dakota House of Representatives said Wednesday she won’t seek re-election on Nov. 2.

Rep. Mary Ekstrom, a Democrat first elected to the Legislature in 1998, said it’s hard to juggle her legislative duties with her full-time job as office manager and preplan consultant for Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home in Fargo.

Ekstrom said she ran for re-election to her District 11 House seat in 2006 because she felt she owed it to her husband, Rurik, who died during the 2005 session. But juggling lives in Bismarck and Fargo hasn’t been easy, she said.

“And that business of being on your own and not having any backup … it’s getting harder every year,” she said.

Williams announced Wednesday he will run as an independent for one of the two District 11 House seats up for grabs. Rep. Scot Kelsh, D-Fargo, said he plans to seek another term.

Ekstrom said she’s “sorry” that Williams isn’t going through the party convention process to try to get on the ballot.

“I think it gives everybody an opportunity to sort through the candidates and see who they think is best,” she said. “And it’s not to say I don’t think he’s very able. He’s a very, very fine man, good friend.”

Williams said he’s always been an unconventional candidate. The self-described “nonpartisan type of guy” was re-elected to a second four-year term on the City Commission in 2008.

To get on the Nov. 2 ballot, Williams said he must collect 300 signatures after April 5 and turn them in 60 days before the election.

If elected to the House, the lifelong Fargo resident said he’ll continue to serve on the commission, attending meetings via phone when necessary.

Williams said he believes the two jobs would “complement each other a lot.” As a city commissioner, he works about 25 hours a week, mostly on his computer at home, he said.

“So where you’re at for a lot of that is not necessarily critical,” he said, noting the Legislature only meets every two years.

Williams noted other local office holders who have served in the Legislature, including Clayton Lodoen, who was both West Fargo’s mayor and a state senator during the 1970s and ’80s, and current state Rep. Eliot Glassheim, who is on the Grand Forks City Council.

District 11’s boundaries extend to the Red River on the east, Interstate 29 on the west, Fifth Avenue South on the north and I-94 on the south.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528