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'Maker of great noise,' veteran, cannabis proponent runs for Moorhead mayor

Kevin "NeSe" Shores is facing off against incumbent Shelly Carlson in his fourth run for Moorhead mayor.

A man in a hat seated in a power wheelchair holds a white box of documents.
Kevin 'NeSe' Shores in front of the Clay County Courthouse in Moorhead in 2018.
C.S. Hagen / The Forum
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MOORHEAD — “I’m not running for mayor, I’m rolling for mayor,” said Kevin “NeSe” Shores.

He joked, but finding humor amid the trials of his condition is how he lives.

His fingers are twisted by rheumatoid variant disease, which he believes came from a cocktail of vaccinations during basic training for the Navy in 1985, he said.

“I am a blind, disabled, Native American veteran, crippled up in a wheelchair. But now that I am blind, I see better than I ever have. It gives me a new perspective of existence,” Shores said.

As a member of the Anishinaabe tribe, his Native name, NeSe, pronounced nay-say, means “a maker of great noise, like the thunder,” he said. He has run for Moorhead mayor three times before and became known as the “megaphone man,” which he plans to do again during this race facing current Mayor Shelly Carlson.

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“That will be a common occurrence soon,” Shores said, adding that he’s calling his platform the Community Unity Project. “I am going to be actively requesting debates.”

He uses an iPhone, wrapped in worn leather, as his digital eyes but needs adaptive scanning equipment at home to help him read. The process is tedious and not always accurate, he said. When he tries to submit necessary documents online, he frequently receives error messages, a problem that led him to owing $16,000 in real estate taxes.

“So, the city and the county continued to send me, a blind man, letters, and I kept telling them to comply with disability laws,” Shores said.

Clay County Auditor Lori Johnson said she was aware of Shores’ situation, and that the county “bent over backwards trying to accommodate his needs.” Now, however, the back taxes are no longer an issue, she said.

“I believe it has been taken care of; the state called me and said they would provide funding for him to pay that off,” Johnson said.

In 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Shores rolled his wheelchair at about seven miles per hour from Moorhead to St. Paul to commemorate 20 years since his first trip to raise awareness about Gulf War illnesses.

Now, he’s running for mayor for the fourth time to try to help those less fortunate, he said.

“From the first time I rolled for mayor, that has been the basis: How do we maintain the community? Who am I to want something more than my needs if I know within a two-block area of me there is a child going to sleep without adequate food?” Shores said.

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“I have proclaimed several times that I want to save the ‘Youniverse,’ pun intended there," he said. "If you think of the community as a wheel, every entity is a spoke on that wheel, and if we help every spoke be as effective as possible, then the wheel rolls smoothly."

Another part of his platform is to help boost the cannabis growth in the area, which will offer jobs, business and help the environment, he said.

“I believe that now, with the technological state we’re in, there are more than 100,000 byproducts that can be made from the cannabis plant. And if you look around where you are at, everything except metal and glass can be replaced with cannabis plant,” Shores said.

Shelly Carlson Mayor Moorhead
Moorhead Mayor Shelly Carlson, right, officially announced her run for the Mayor’s office in Moorhead on Wednesday, June 1. She is flanked by supporter Lisa Borgen, VP of Administration at American Crystal Sugar and a former Minnesota District Court Judge and Clay County Attorney. On the left is Carlson's daughter, Jordan Carlson.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

Mayor Shelly Carlson also wants to boost the commercial and industrial sector in Moorhead. She would like to increase the city's current tax revenue of 15% from businesses, she said, noting a healthy city should be at 30%, which will lighten tax burdens for residents.

“And we are starting to do that with our downtown redevelopment,” Carlson said, adding that she’s also focused on public safety and addressing aging infrastructure.

Carlson was unanimously selected by the City Council to take over as mayor for Jonathan Judd in February 2021, so the race against Shores will be her first election for mayor.

She’s open to speak about the issues with Shores, she said.

“Him and I want similar things for the city. Maybe our approaches might be different, but I imagine our goals are the same,” Carlson said.

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Everyone else that Shores knew who suffered from the Gulf War illnesses has died, he said, but he still has a purpose.

“I am still living and breathing, so there is ultimately something I still need to do — and hopefully it will be as mayor of Moorhead — to assist the Community Unity Project and find prosperity,” Shores said.

C.S. Hagen is an award-winning journalist currently covering the education and activist beats mainly in North Dakota and Minnesota.
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