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Erik Burgess, Published January 19 2013

Hintermeyer will run for mayor in Moorhead

MOORHEAD – Longtime Mayor Mark Voxland is not running for re-election, and by one councilman’s estimation, 2013 will be a dramatic year at the polls.

It’ll be just the third time the city has had a new mayor in 34 years.

“In my opinion, we’ll get a dozen people running for mayor,” Councilman Mark Altenburg said. “It’ll be interesting.”

Still, many are saying it’s too early to commit to running for the post.

A survey by The Forum of all current City Council members and one other recent mayoral candidate found only one person ready to announce a definite plan to run for mayor in the fall.

Councilman Mark Hintermeyer of the 4th Ward said he’s pretty set on running for mayor.

“It’s so hard being the middle of January, but I don’t see any reason why I would not attempt to do it,” Hintermeyer said. “I believe it’s an opportunity for me with an open seat.”

Hintermeyer is finishing out his second four-year term as councilman this year. He would be up for re-election in the 4th Ward in the fall, but he cannot run for both seats at the same time.

The city has a history of long-standing council members being elected and re-elected to lengthy terms as mayor.

Elected in 2001, Voxland has been mayor for 12 years, after serving 14 years as a city councilman. His predecessor, Morrie Lanning, was mayor for 22 years after serving as councilman for six years. Lanning retired from the state Legislature this year after continuing to serve Moorhead at the Capitol for another 10 years.

The longest-serving current council member is Nancy Otto, who is in the middle of her fourth term.

Otto is not up for re-election this year, meaning she could vie for the mayor spot and keep her council seat if she lost. She’s also the current mayor pro tempore in Voxland’s absence.

Still, she distanced herself from deciding one way or another on a run at mayor.

“At this point, I’m thinking about it but not committing yet,” she said in an email.

Another familiar face could be considering it. Travis Reimche challenged Voxland in 2009 for the job and lost.

Reimche is used to the grind of a running a political campaign, but he has yet to be successful. In 2011, he lost to Heidi Durand in an attempt to pick up the open 2nd Ward council seat. Last year, Reimche failed to pick up the retiring Lanning’s open state House seat.

“My wife and I were in Mexico for the last seven days,” Reimche said on Friday. “It was our ‘licking our wounds’ after the last election.”

Because of his recent trip out of the country, Reimche, who manages the patient accounts department at Sanford Health, said he hasn’t considered whether he’d run.

“I’m going to definitely think about it,” he said. “And if there’s a candidate that does run, and it’s someone I believe in, I’ll do everything I can to support them.”

The other members of the eight-person council either ruled a run out entirely or left the door open only a crack.

Councilwoman Brenda Elmer of the 3rd Ward somewhat toyed with the idea, but ultimately said it was too early to say.

“Oh, never say never,” she said. “But, you know, I really haven’t given it much thought.”

Elmer said she wanted to see who stepped forward in the coming months before more seriously considering her own run at mayor.

Her partner in the 3rd Ward, Councilman Mike Hulett, said he is focused on the year ahead and not the election cycle, although he said he’s been encouraged by many people to try.

“I’m getting that often wherever I’m going right now, but even given that, it’s just too early,” he said.

Some relative newcomers to the council, like Altenburg, resoundingly turned down the notion.

“Nope, nope with a capital P,” said Altenburg, who was elected to his first term in 2009. “I have no interest in being mayor.”

Altenburg’s partner in the 2nd Ward, Durand, elected to her first term in 2011, was equally opposed.

“I want to focus on being the best councilperson that I can be,” she said. “I’ve got a lot more to learn.”

Luther Stueland, who is on the last year of his first term representing the 1st Ward, said he doesn’t plan on running for mayor.

Councilman Steve Gehrtz, newly elected to the 4th Ward in 2011, said he also has no intention of vying for the mayor’s job.

“I’m enjoying being on the council,” he said. “I have a business to run too, and I just don’t have the time commitment that it would take to be a mayor.”

This year will also be an election year for four of the council seats. Hintermeyer, Altenburg, Stueland and Elmer will all be up for re-election this year, if they wish to stay on the board.

If Hintermeyer runs for mayor that would leave an open chair in the 4th Ward, a seat that had four contenders in the 2011 election when Gehrtz won.

Altenburg, Stueland and Elmer all said it was too early to say whether or not they’d be running for re-election. The election is in November.

“It’s going to be a whole new city come (next) January,” Altenburg said. “If you take a look at the Moorhead City Council, you’ve got six council members that have been on there for less than four years. You’re going to have a new mayor.”

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518