MOORHEAD — Because of a few resignations, there are races on the Nov. 3 ballot for all Moorhead City Council wards this year.
The wards cover all of the city from the north in Ward 1 to the southeast in Ward 4.
The candidates, all seeking four-year terms on the council, answered questions in a Zoom meeting forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley on Wednesday night, Oct. 6.
Five persons are seeking a seat in the north Moorhead ward to replace Sara Watson-Curry, who decided against running for a second term.
The candidates, in alphabetical order, are Alexa Dixon-Griggs, Matt Gilbertson, Ryan Jensen, Quindlynn Overland and Kristine Thompson.
They answered questions from Moorhead's biggest challenges, to their vision for downtown, to if they favored allowing residents to raise backyard chickens.
They all agreed a new underpass on 11th Street was needed for public safety reasons and to improve traffic flow and access to downtown. As for downtown, they all favored efforts underway to attract more business and rejuvenate the Moorhead Center Mall.
All candidates also favored strong efforts for more affordable housing, although they had different ideas, and supported efforts for more artwork in the city.
In discussing the biggest challenges, Thompson, who called herself a seasoned public servant who has also served on the school board and Moorhead Public Service Commission, said affordable housing needed to be addressed.
Dixon-Griggs, a community advocate who serves on the city's public housing board, agreed and said she also wanted to address poverty and homelessness. The answer for homeless people is housing, she said.
Jensen, a former police officer, said he thought the voice of the residents needed to be heard more on the council.
"We need an open line of communication," he said, touting rejuvenation of the relationship between police and residents.
Gilbertson, a businessman and founder of nonprofits for the city's youth, thought undertaking efforts to "level the playing field" in Moorhead to attract more business and residents was needed because of the strong competition from Fargo. He said efforts to lower costs were needed. Moorhead saw more growth in the past two years than the past 20 years, and it needs to continue, he said.
Overland, a community advocate for children who plans to open a day care, said community resiliency efforts were needed to help people through financial and other emergencies.
As for chickens, the candidates were split. In support were Dixon-Griggs, Jensen and Overland, while Thompson and Gilbertson were opposed.
Those in favor said, while regulations are needed, it would be a way to raise food and could be an educational tool for children. Those opposed doubted most home lots were large enough and that eggs and chicken were fairly cheap at the grocery store.
Laura Caroon is running unopposed for the seat in central Moorhead that has been held for the past eight years by Heidi Durand, who is stepping down.
Caroon didn't take questions, but gave a statement in which she said she wanted to help the city build on its momentum and make it a better place to live.
As the founder of a women's organization called Ladyboss Midwest, she looks for ways to help women succeed in all areas of their life, including business.
She said she wanted to give back to Moorhead by serving as the city has given her and her family "so much."
Larry Seljevold, who won a one-year term in a special election last fall, is being challenged by John Bell, who had a prior commitment from months ago and couldn't participate in the forum.
Bell, in his second run for office, said he had encouragement to run again and be involved with the community. He said his priorities would be affordable housing, the park system and ensuring the public transit system is serving those in need. He is a finance manager for a local church.
Seljevold, a retired teacher, said he would like to attract more business to grow the city's tax base. Homeowners, he said, are footing too much of the property tax bill.
His priority is to strengthen neighborhoods. As compared to the turnover in businesses in the city, homes will always be there, he said.
In response to questions, he favors and believes the 11th Street railroad underpass will be built and supports allowing backyard chickens.
As for affordable housing, he said a community land trust program where new homeowners own the home but not the land is one way to help. He also thinks the city should offer tax breaks to homeowners when they repair their homes, just like incentives for newly built homes.
Steve Lindaas was also elected in a special election last November and is seeking a four-year term. He is being challenged by Dave Anderson and Jeremiah Jones. Jones didn't participate in the forum.
Lindaas said he is running to continue working on food resiliency efforts as well as equity and transparency.
Anderson said he brings experience from both the private and public sectors, having worked for Sanford Health and previously for Fargo's downtown development organization. He also served on the Moorhead Public Service Commission and said he has ideas to offer.
The two both support the 11th Street underpass, backyard chickens, continuing efforts to grow the arts in the city and stressed the importance of wearing masks to help control COVID-19 until a vaccine arrives.
As for the biggest challenges facing Moorhead, Anderson said it's continuing growth in the city and keeping "the foot on the gas." A larger tax and employment base will help pay for amenities, he said.
Lindaas said they have "rebooted" the effort for a strategic plan for the city, and he wants to listen more to see what residents want.