Moorhead mayor to leave office for Minnesota judgeship

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced early Monday evening, Jan. 25, his appointment of Johnathan Judd to replace Judge Barbara Hanson in the Seventh Judicial District.

Moorhead Mayor Johnathan Judd speaks during the State of the Cities address Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, at the Holiday Inn, Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

MOORHEAD — The mayor of Moorhead will soon have a new title: Judge Johnathan Judd.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced early Monday evening, Jan. 25, his appointment of Judd to replace Judge Barbara Hanson in the Seventh Judicial District. Judd will be chambered in Fergus Falls in Otter Tail County, according to a news release.

“Mr. Judd has championed fairness, justice and equality while working tirelessly to create open dialogue among community members throughout his impressive career in public service," Walz said in a news release. "I look forward to seeing him continue to work on behalf of the people of Minnesota.”

The statement did not say when Judd would start as a judge.

Judd has worn many hats in the past when it comes to law. He was a public defender in the Seventh District, a prosecutor for Clay County and a private attorney for his own firm.


The appointment means he will have to step down as Moorhead's mayor. He was first elected in 2018, and his term doesn't end until 2022.

It's likely the city will have to appoint an interim mayor until a special election is held, City Manager Dan Mahli previously told The Forum.

Judd's appointment was announced just minutes before a Moorhead City Council meeting started Monday. Messages left for Judd and Mahli, who both attended the City Council meeting, were not returned by publication time Monday night.

Judd also is the director of equity and inclusion at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead and an adjunct instructor at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

The mayor was one of three finalists considered for Hanson's opening. Hanson was appointed to the post in 2005, was elected three times to the position and stepped down Oct. 6.

She now serves as a statewide senior judge.

The Seventh Judicial District covers Becker, Benton, Clay, Douglas, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Stearns, Todd and Wadena counties.

According to the Moorhead city charter :


If a vacancy occurs in the office of mayor, the council must declare the vacancy to exist and by majority vote of its members appoint one of its members to serve as mayor.

The member appointed shall possess all the rights and powers of the mayor until a special election is held.

Appointment of a council member as mayor results in that council member's office being deemed vacant.

If council vacancies occur before the first day to file affidavits of candidacy for the next regular city election, a special election must be held at the next regular city election or at the next state general election.

An appointed person serves until a successor is elected at the special election to fill the unexpired portion of the term.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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