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Published June 06 2012

In his first city-level endorsement, Walaker backs Sobolik in commission race

FARGO – Mayor Dennis Walaker said today he’d like to see a new, female face serving on Fargo City Commission.

Walaker is formally endorsing challenger Melissa Sobolik for the contest that will be decided by city voters Tuesday.

Anthony Gehrig and incumbents Mike Williams and Dave Piepkorn are also running for the two open seats on the five-member commission, of which the mayor is a voting member.

Walaker said Sobolik has shown a commitment and dedication to learning about Fargo’s city government, especially since her first bid for the commission two years ago.

“We want somebody I feel we can work with. … She has done an exemplary job of doing her research,” Walaker said, adding: “Having a female brings a new perspective to the commission process.”

Since he was elected mayor in 2006, Walaker has routinely endorsed legislative, statewide and congressional candidates, but before today, he had not publically backed candidates for the City Commission.

Sobolik, 32, is the director of member and client services at the Great Plains Food Bank, and she’s running on a pledge to represent Fargo’s younger demographic.

Current commission members range in age from 43 to 71 years old.

Walaker said he won’t be endorsing anyone else in the commission race, and he also won’t say which incumbent – Williams or Piepkorn – he’d like to see Sobolik replace.

However, Walaker and Piepkorn have particularly butted heads on multiple issues, most recently on the debate over extending Fargo’s half-cent sales tax, which is also on the June 12 ballot.

Walaker has pushed for the tax extension, while Piepkorn vehemently opposes the measure. Williams also opposed the sales tax measure, but only on the grounds that the city should wait to ask voters to approve the tax extension.

Fargo commissioners serve four-year terms and receive an annual salary of $21,938.

Piepkorn was first elected in 2008, while Williams has served since 2004.

Outside public office, Piepkorn owns and manages Fargo’s franchise location for TruGreen lawn care service.

Williams is a risk manager for Family Mutual Insurance.

Gehrig, a political novice, works as an intelligence analyst for the North Dakota Air National Guard in Fargo.