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Published June 09 2010

West Fargo City Commission: Mattern wins third term; Bennett, Hanson voted to commission

Facing his first contested mayoral bid in West Fargo, two-term incumbent Rich Mattern came out victorious Tuesday by 256 votes.

Mattern was challenged by Commissioner Mike Thorstad and political newcomer Peter Karl.

In complete but unofficial results, Mattern received 1,283 votes, or 54 percent.

Thorstad received 1,027 votes, or 43 percent; and Karl received 53 votes, or 2 percent.

“I’m glad that the voters of West Fargo have the trust in me to lead them for another four years, and I look forward to working with the residents to move the city forward,” Mattern said.

Mattern called Thorstad a “tough competitor.” The men praised one another for running “good, clean” campaigns.

Thorstad said he called Mattern to congratulate him on the victory.

Thorstad, who will remain as a West Fargo commissioner, said he plans to continue his public service.

“I’ll still do everything I do and still be involved, and certainly speak up when I think I need to speak up,” Thorstad said.

Meanwhile, in the West Fargo commission race, voters chose incumbent Lou Bennett to stay and Duane Hanson to join him in filling the two open seats on the board.

In complete but unofficial results, Bennett received 1,397 votes, or 34 percent of the vote, and Hanson received 1,060 votes, or 26 percent.

Candidates Duane Breitling and Richard Lewis fell short. Breitling received 865 votes, or 21 percent, and Lewis received 721 votes, or 18 percent.

Voters could cast ballots in favor of two out of the four candidates.

“I’m very pleased,” said Bennett, who has served on the commission since 2002. “It’s always nice to know that you are still supported by the people. I can assure the public that I’ll continue to do my very best as I always have.”

Hanson, a former West Fargo School Board member, said he was happy with the results.

“I’m very thankful for the people that came out and voted for me and I’m looking forward to a new opportunity,” he said.

Commissioner Bryan Schulz did not seek re-election. He attended his final commission meeting Monday night after serving eight years on the board.

Voters exiting the polls Tuesday were generally split on their votes for mayor between Mattern and Thorstad – indicating the possibility for a close election for an office that had been uncontested in West Fargo for 12 years.

West Fargo’s mayor serves a four-year term and receives an annual salary of $11,140.

Mattern supporters said they trusted his experience as West Fargo’s mayor, while Thorstad supporters said they thought West Fargo needed a change in leadership.

In the commission race, voters’ choices early Tuesday varied widely among the four candidates, echoing the unofficial returns.

West Fargo’s commission is composed of the mayor and four commissioners. Commissioners serve four-year terms and receive an annual salary of $7,425.

Turnout at many polling sites in West Fargo was as slow and steady as the drizzle that fell from the sky for much of the day.

Although more voters came out to the polls later Tuesday, election inspectors were still left disappointed.

“This is the opportunity for people to express their opinions and get who they want elected,” election inspector Marlene Batterberry said.

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