MOORHEAD — Incumbents for the Moorhead Area Public School Board held onto the four open seats on Election Day, according to unofficial and incomplete results.

With all 30 precincts reporting by 11:15 p.m., incumbents Melissa Burgard, Scott Steffes, Cassidy Bjorklund and Matt Valan held the majority of the vote. Burgard had 15.9%, Steffes had 16.7%, Bjorklund had 18.1% and Valan had 15.9%, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State's website.

Challenger David Marquardt was in fifth place with 14.4% of the votes. Challengers Ezzat Haider, Thaddeus Laugisch and Shawn Stumphf held 6.4%, 4.9% and 7% of votes, respectively.

Write-in candidates garnered 0.4% of votes.

All of the candidates who responded to questions said it was challenging to navigate their campaigns through the coronavirus pandemic.

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Bjorklund, who spent Election Day taking care of her daughter who tested positive for COVID-19, said she is proud to keep serving Moorhead.

"Thank you to the wonderful Moorhead community for putting their trust in me. I will continue to work hard to advocate for every student," Bjorklund said.

Matt Valan, Moorhead Area School Board incumbent with granddaughter Greeley in southern Minnesota, following family tradition of hunting pheasants on Election Day. Special to The Forum
Matt Valan, Moorhead Area School Board incumbent with granddaughter Greeley in southern Minnesota, following family tradition of hunting pheasants on Election Day. Special to The Forum

Valan spent the day in southern Minnesota continuing the family tradition of hunting pheasants with family. This year's election cycle was "crazy," he said, without voter forums, parades and little to no door knocking. He's proud of the work the board has accomplished and plans to continue guiding the district through the coronavirus pandemic.

"I am grateful for the voters who have honored me with the privilege of continuing to serve the communities of Moorhead, Sabin and Georgetown on the school board," Valan said. "I look forward to working with the new board, students, parents, staff and our faithful taxpayers in providing a well-rounded education for all learners."

The coronavirus pandemic also hindered the campaign for Steffes, who plans on ensuring students won't fall behind after the threat of COVID-19 is over.

One of Burgard's top-priority issues is ensuring equity and equality in area schools, she said.

"I will do my best to ensure that every learner in our district is provided an opportunity to be successful," Burgard said.

The School Board is made up of seven residents elected to four-year terms. Board members receive $920 per month in compensation.

Bjorklund is the current chairperson who was first elected in 2016. Steffes was first elected in 2012. Burgard, the vice chairperson was first elected in 2016, and Valan was first elected in 2012.

Moorhead School Board candidate Melissa Burgard drops her son off for practice at the Cullen Hockey Center in Moorhead on Tuesday, Nov. 3. David Samson / The Forum
Moorhead School Board candidate Melissa Burgard drops her son off for practice at the Cullen Hockey Center in Moorhead on Tuesday, Nov. 3. David Samson / The Forum

Steffes fears the coronavirus pandemic will hurt education.

“When will students be back full time, and how far behind will the students be when this is over?” he said.

Challenger Laugisch said the most difficult aspect of this election was to adhere to social distancing guidelines, and he focused his campaign on being a voice for "overloaded" and "ill-compensated staff."

Marquardt, the challenger closest to unseating an incumbent, said his priorities were school staffing and proper funding.

“These are very hard times for teachers, support staff and administrators. I’m concerned with burnout and people leaving the profession. They all need our support now more than ever,” he said.

Moorhead School Board candidate Dave Marquardt casts his ballot at Christ the King Church in Moorhead on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
David Samson / The Forum
Moorhead School Board candidate Dave Marquardt casts his ballot at Christ the King Church in Moorhead on Tuesday, Nov. 3. David Samson / The Forum