FARGO - Despite what both described as a strong field of candidates vying for a seat on the City Commission, incumbents Tony Gehrig and Dave Piepkorn appear to have been re-elected Tuesday, June 12.
"This has to be the hardest field that's ever run or the most-qualified field that's ever run for commissioner," said Gehrig, who was the top vote-getter of the nine candidates. "To get the most votes out of that, I think, does say something. I think it's important to note fiscal responsibility is popular."
Piepkorn echoed Gehrig.
"There were many, many strong candidates. You knew it was going to be extremely close," said Piepkorn. "If you look at the field - former legislator, former commissioners - it was very strong."
With all 22 precincts reporting, Gehrig had 18 percent of the vote and Piepkorn 17 percent, according to preliminary and unofficial results on the Secretary of State's website.
Linda Boyd had 16 percent, Arlette Preston 14 percent, Mike Williams 14 percent, Tim Flakoll 14 percent, Liz Maddock-Johnson 6 percent, Kelan Oster 1 percent and Lenny Tweeden 1 percent.
Boyd, Preston and Williams previously served on the commission. Flakoll was a Republican state senator in District 44. The other three candidates were newcomers to politics.
Mayor Tim Mahoney ran unopposed and had 96 percent of the vote. The remaining votes were write-ins.
Commissioners are paid an annual salary of $25,012. A commissioner serving as the deputy mayor - currently that's Piepkorn - is paid $27,456. Mayors, who serve as a member of the five-member City Commission but are elected separately, are paid an annual salary of $52,812.
In a questionnaire The Forum sent to candidates prior to election day, most running said the level of services the city provides and the taxes levied are about right, with the exception of special assessments. Nearly all candidates called for some kind of change to specials.
Specials are a kind of property tax used for streets and sewers based on how much each property benefits from such infrastructure rather than property value. The resulting bill can be very large leading to many complaints.
Gehrig was very vocal about the way specials are levied in Fargo and floated a plan to eliminate them.
He said Tuesday night that he probably did get votes because of this, but he thinks it was more indicative of concerns about taxation and spending that he's raised.
Oster, the only other candidate to call for the elimination of specials, didn't do as well.
Piepkorn said in the questionnaire he favored a recent move by the commission to increase the city's share of street and sewer repair from 50 percent to 70 percent, with the remainder levied as specials.
Though he did come out on top, Gehrig said he wasn't sure it would give him more clout on the commission, where he is often in the minority. "Probably it's going to be business as usual. If everything shakes out the way it looks like it's going to shake out with Dave and I coming back, the dynamic's going to be the same I think."
Fargo City Commission race
Tony Gehrig: 18 percent.
Dave Piepkorn: 17 percent.
Linda Boyd: 16 percent.
Arlette Preston: 14 percent.
Mike Williams: 14 percent.
Tim Flakoll: 14 percent.
Liz Maddock-Johnson: 6 percent.
Kelan Oster: 1 percent.
Lenny Tweeden: 1 percent.
Fargo mayoral race
Tim Mahone (unopposed): 96 percent.