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Erik Burgess, Published April 01 2014

Former Cass County commissioner Wagner to run for City Commission, setting up challenge against former foe

FARGO – A former Cass County commissioner has thrown his hat into the City Commission race here, setting up a challenge against a former foe in a high-profile lawsuit.

Former Cass County Commissioner Scott Wagner, 44, officially filed for the race Tuesday.

“I’ve got a passion for local government, and I’d like the opportunity to serve the people of Fargo now in a new capacity,” Wagner said.

He joins City Commissioner Tim Mahoney, School Board member John Strand and Anthony Gehrig in the race.

Wagner and Strand have battled publicly before.

In the mid-2000s, Strand led an effort to save the old county jail after Wagner and the Cass County Commission voted to demolish the crumbling building and replace it with a new courthouse addition.

Strand’s “Save the Jail” activist group eventually filed a lawsuit against the county in an attempt to stop the demolition. The county fought back, asking for $39,000 in legal fees for causing the delay.

A jury decided in 2005 that neither side could collect their damages or legal fees. The courthouse addition finally opened in fall 2012.

Wagner said his decision to run for City Commission had nothing to do with Strand running.

“That issue is so far in the past,” Wagner said.

Strand said he did not expect the jail fight to come up during the campaign.

“I’m just really glad it’s a long time ago. I don’t want to relive that stuff,” he said. “I’m probably not his favorite person, and he’s probably not mine, but that’s nothing to do with today.”

Two commissioner seats are available in the June 10 election – those of Mahoney and City Commissioner Brad Wimmer, who vacated his seat to run for mayor against incumbent Dennis Walaker.

Commissioners are elected at large, so the two highest vote-getters will win the seats.

Wagner left the Cass County Commission in 2012, after serving three four-year terms, which is the county’s term limit. He said he’s always been a strong advocate for local government and was looking to serve somewhere else after his stint on the county board.

“I’ve been out of public office for a year and a half,” he said. “For me, it wasn’t about running. It was about running for the right office. You know, where can I contribute?”

He pointed to the experience he gained during his 12 years on the County Commission, which included three years representing the county on the Metro Flood Study Work Group, which later became the Diversion Authority.

He also served as president for the North Dakota County Commissioner Association and was chairman of its legislative committee.

Wagner said he wants to focus on delivering “top-notch public services” to the Fargo residents, as well as keeping the city fiscally responsible.

“There’s a lot of unique challenges and opportunities with a city that’s growing like Fargo,” he said, “and I look forward to the opportunity to work on those issues for the citizens of Fargo.”

Wagner is a North Dakota State University alumnus and is the owner and operator of Wagner Window Cleaning.


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