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Cali Owings, Published March 20 2014

Wimmer: Fargo needs new leadership, focus beyond flood control

FARGO – Brad Wimmer called for a changing of the guard – and a focus that includes, but expands beyond, flood control – as he officially announced his bid for mayor at the Fargo Theatre on Thursday.

The Fargo city commissioner is challenging two-term incumbent Dennis Walaker.

Walaker was elected mayor eight years ago at the same time Wimmer and Tim Mahoney started their first terms as city commissioners.

Instead of running for a third term on the commission, Wimmer said he was encouraged to run for mayor and bring new energy into the city.

“I think we need to bring some new people into the city leadership,” he said.

Wimmer insisted he isn’t “running against” his longtime colleague but is offering voters a new choice.

He said in December he intended to run again for his City Commission seat and said having Walaker as mayor was “good for all of us.”

Wimmer said his perspective has changed since then.

“[Walaker] was right for the time,” he said. “I think I’m right for the time now.”

Now that the city has made progress on flood control measures and isn’t beating back a flood year after year, it’s time to move on to improving other infrastructure and the city’s business climate, Wimmer said.

While flood control will remain a top priority, Wimmer said he wants to make changes to ensure Fargo is friendly to businesses in a variety of sectors.

“Without change and moving forward in some of these other areas, we get a little stagnant,” he said in an interview Thursday. “We don’t have time to be stagnant; we have to grow.”

For Walaker, who has been involved with flood control since his time as public works director, flood protection remains the city’s No. 1 priority.

“As far as I’m concerned, there’s no question in my mind at all that flood control is the most important issue in our community,” Walaker said.

He said many flood control projects are still ongoing and there’s still a lot of work to be done. He said residents are also concerned about flood insurance rates.

While the city handles many other issues, flood protection should be first priority, he said.

Wimmer’s campaign will focus on flood protection, economic development and his Fargo Fit plan, which aims to keep the city “fiscally fit” and also promote health and wellness initiatives.

“Fargo is youthful. Fargo wants a lot of healthy initiatives moving forward,” he said. “Fargo is looking to grow responsibly.”

He said he’ll bring a fiscally responsible mindset to ongoing city projects such as flood control, construction of a new City Hall and a possible new convention center.

Wimmer was first elected to the City Commission in 2006 after previously serving for eight years as a member of the Fargo Park Board. He and his brother own Wimmer’s Diamonds, a jewelry store that has done business in Fargo for 95 years and has locations downtown and at the West Acres Shopping Center.

He is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599