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Wendy Reuer, Published January 25 2012

Valley City retains Werkhoven as mayor

VALLEY CITY, N.D. – Mayor Bob Werkhoven will finish out his term after winning the recall election here on Tuesday.

However, voters decided to allow a new city commissioner into office, with Duane “Dewey” Magnuson beating three-term City Commissioner Ken Evenson.

Werkhoven won by garnering about 57 percent or 1,128 votes cast while challenger Dean Ross received 860 votes, or 43 percent of the vote.

In the City Commission race, Magnuson, a firefighter, won with 1,023 votes, or 52 percent, over Evenson’s 950 votes.

City Auditor Avis Richter said voter turnout was steady throughout the day.

Just under 2,000 ballots were cast, about one-third of the city’s population.

Although the city’s lone polling site at City Hall closed at 7 p.m., the results were not in until after 11 p.m., because all ballots were hand counted.

Officials received 658 absentee ballots – mostly from snowbirds – administrative assistant Becki Anderson said.

Organizers of the recall effort of Werkhoven and Evenson said they were unhappy with the status quo because current city officials stifle criticism and brush off the concerns of their constituents.

Werkhoven – who was first elected in 2010 to a four-year term – has said he has done nothing to warrant a recall.

The recall election Tuesday caps about a year of turmoil and political unrest within the city widely believed to have started with a disagreement between Ross and then-city administrator James Cameron.

A formal reprimand of Ross was issued by Cameron after Ross asked a question at a public meeting Cameron had ordered him not to ask.

Ross was later accused of mishandling thousands of dollars of public money and suspended while a misconduct investigation ensued. Ross eventually reached a settlement with the city and retired in October. State investigators said there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Ross said his decision to run against Werkhoven for the mayoral seat is to give residents “fresher thoughts, a different way of approaching things” not based on revenge.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530