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Published August 18 2010

Area school boards lacking candidates

The 2008 Minnesota school board season was uncommonly action-packed, with several hotly contested races and crowded candidate slates.

Things have cooled down considerably.

As the 5 p.m. deadline to file for school board drew near Tuesday, school leaders in a number of area districts waited anxiously. Fewer candidates had turned up than there were seats up for grabs. And since some hadn’t run into that predicament before, they weren’t even sure what to do.

“It’s tough to get school board members today,” said Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Superintendent Randy Bruer, “unless there’s something controversial going on in the district.”

The D-G-F race yielded as many candidates as slots. In Moorhead, a spate of Tuesday filings injected some intrigue in the November election, which will include a three-way race for one two-year term.

Residents can withdraw the end of Thursday.

Three districts – Hawley, Detroit Lakes and Ada-Borup – faced a shortage of candidates Tuesday.

In Detroit Lakes, Board Chairman David Langworthy and fellow incumbent Terri Boyd filed for re-election, leaving one open slot. That afternoon, Langworthy said he was a bit nervous but hopeful a last-minute candidate would step up. He himself applied an hour before filing closed five years ago, as a favor to a departing board member.

Now, as the deadline approached, board members tried to solicit the same favor: “We mentioned it to people who we thought would be good candidates.”

In the nick of time, two additional DL candidates filed. But in both Hawley and Ada-Borup, only two candidates materialized for three open seats.

“That means things are going pretty smoothly, right?” said Ada-Borup Superintendent Mike Kolness, adding that hadn’t happened in his 20 years with the district.

Bob Meeks, executive director of the Minnesota School Board Association, tends to agree. The Minnesota financial crisis has made serving on a school board a tougher job.

But in the end, “It really is local,” he said. “The rule of thumb is if there’s not a lot of controversy in the district, the number of candidates is down.”

In such cases, the top write-in candidate gets the job. If that candidate declines, the board appoints a two-year member.

The races in Breckenridge and Lake Park-Audubon will offer more suspense, though not as much as in 2008, when 13 ran for four Breck seats. This time, three incumbents and four challengers will vie for three seats in Breckenridge; in LP-A, four incumbents will defend their seats against three challengers.

In Moorhead, one challenger, Laurie Johnson, will run alongside three incumbents up for re-election to four-year terms: Bill Tomhave, Karin Dulski and Chairwoman Kris Thompson. Separately, three new candidates will vie for a two-year term.

Area school board candidate glance

Moorhead

Running for three four-year seats:

  • Bill Tomhave (i)

  • Karin Dulski (i)

  • Kris Thompson (i)

  • Laurie Johnson

    Running for one two-year seat:

  • Bryce Haugen

  • Sylvia Hernandez-Cruz

  • Trudy Wilmer

    Compensation: $700 a month

    Ada-Borup

    Running for three-four year seats:

  • Nancy Merkens (i)

  • Mike Burke (i)

    Compensation: $60 per regular meeting, $30 per special or committee meeting

    Hawley

    Running for three four-year seats:

  • Al Holleman (i)

  • Stephen Stafki

    Compensation: $50 per meeting, $100 per full-day meeting

    Breckenridge

    Running for three four-year seats:

  • Tom Rittenhouse (i)

  • Dave Sayler (i)

  • Kathryn Radig (i)

  • Dar Jahnig

  • Clayton Ernst

  • Marc Hasbargen

  • Justin Neppl

    Compensation: $100 per regular meeting, plus $50 per special and committee meetings

    Detroit Lakes

    Running for three four-year seats:

  • David Langworthy (i)

  • Terri Boyd (i)

  • Brenda Muckenhirn

  • Tom Thompson

    Compensation: $2,400 per year, plus $60 per special meeting

    Lake Park-Audubon

    Running for four four-year seats:

  • Jeff Swetland (i)

  • Richard Ellsworth (i)

  • Vicky Grondahl (i)

  • Michael McIntire (i)

  • Rich Veit

  • Ryan Quern

  • Monica LaPoint

    Compensation: $70 per regular board meeting

    Ulen-Hitterdal

    Running for four four-year seats

  • Angela Sirjord (i)

  • Gary Peterson (i)

  • Andrea Koczur (i)

  • Jeannette Kjos (i)

  • Melissa Green

    Compensation: $35 per regular and special meeting

    Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton

    Running for four four-year seats:

  • Jerry Anderson (i)

  • Karleen Mjolsness (i)

  • Tracy Tollefson (i)

  • Rich Hanson

    Compensation: $50 per regular and special meeting


    Readers can reach Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529