MOORHEAD — Moorhead City Councilman Steve Gehrtz shocked fellow city council members Monday night, June 10, by announcing he plans to step down from his position effective Aug. 15.

Gehrtz, who has been on the council for 7 1/2 years, said after "personal soul searching" he decided that his workload for his business, Gehrtz Construction Services, and family considerations were the reasons for his decision.

He said he wanted to improve business development in the city during his tenure and he said he believes that Moorhead is "seeing success in that arena."

"I've thoroughly enjoyed my time" on the council, he said. "I'm looking forward to the next chapter in my life."

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He also thanked the voters in the Fourth Ward, which includes a large part of southeast Moorhead, for their support over the years. His term was set to expire Dec. 31, 2020.

Mayor Johnathan Judd said it was a "big loss for the city council."

He said he appreciated Gehrtz sharing his knowledge about city business with him during his first six months in office. "I'm kind of at a loss for words. It's tough news," said the surprised mayor.

The council said they "sadly" accepted his resignation.

City Attorney John Shockley suggested to the council that given a recent history of where the process of appointing city council members hasn't gone over very well, that the city leave his position open after Aug. 15 until a November election when voters in the school district will vote on a bond issue and will be going to the polls anyway.

Shockley said that would give potential candidates plenty of time to consider running and allow time for them to apply for the position.

He said the council would likely officially vote to take that step to include it with the school election at the next meeting.

Gehrtz and his wife, Elaine, have three adult children. His construction business is involved in several major projects in Moorhead, including an expansion of the Cullen Hockey Center, the new Eventide Senior Living Communities expansion project in the southern part of the city and the Moorhead schools operations center.