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Attorney joins mayoral race

Fargo attorney Brad Swenson formally announced his candidacy for mayor Wednesday, presenting a three-pronged plan for the city's future. About 70 supporters clapped and cheered as Swenson, 39, made his announcement at the Fargo Holiday Inn. Swens...

Fargo attorney Brad Swenson formally announced his candidacy for mayor Wednesday, presenting a three-pronged plan for the city's future.

About 70 supporters clapped and cheered as Swenson, 39, made his announcement at the Fargo Holiday Inn.

Swenson, general counsel for Ulteig Engineers Inc. and board chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of Fargo Moorhead, said the city must commit to sensible growth, develop more better-paying, career-style jobs and invest in the long-term safety of its citizens.

"To reach our full potential, Fargo must distinguish itself from other like-sized communities and manage our growth in a way that directly improves our quality of life," he said.

Swenson said this is his first run for political office, but it's something that has been on his mind "for a number of years."

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Swenson grew up in Moorhead, graduating from Moorhead High School in 1984. He earned an English degree from North Dakota State University in 1989 and a law degree from the University of Denver in 1992. He continued his advanced studies at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands.

In 1999, he was appointed special assistant U.S. attorney to help investigate the standoff and raid at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. After that, he returned to private practice in Fargo, working from an office on Broadway. He has been general counsel for Ulteig Engineers for two years.

In June, the married father of two moved his family from Moorhead to 1434 6th St. S. in Fargo. Swenson said his reason for moving wasn't so he could run for mayor.

"I moved to Fargo because I wanted to live in that neighborhood. We'd been looking for a home there for a long time," he said, adding his two sons will attend the nearby Clara Barton Elementary School.

Swenson said he doesn't believe his limited time as a Fargo resident will hurt him in the June election. He said he has lived, worked and attended school in Fargo-Moorhead for all but about 10 years of his life.

"Fargo's my home," he said.

Swenson said he received an outpouring of support to run for mayor and has raised more than $15,000 in campaign cash and pledges without issuing a fundraising letter.

Mayor Bruce Furness has done a "remarkable job" for Fargo, but the city needs new, energetic leadership for changing times, Swenson said.

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Furness, who is not seeking re-election, said he attended Swenson's announcement because he was invited. He said he's not ready to endorse a candidate for mayor.

The only other candidate to enter the mayoral race is longtime Fargo Public Works Director Dennis Walaker, who announced his candidacy in June. City Commissioner John Cosgriff and Fargo School Board member Arlette Preston also are considering running for mayor. Cosgriff said Wednesday he hopes to announce a decision soon; Preston planned to wait until January, although Swenson's announcement may push up her decision, she said.

Walaker has said he believes Fargo should have a full-time mayor. Furness, who is retired, has been known to keep full-time hours as mayor, despite his part-time salary of $25,014 per year.

Swenson said he would give the mayor's position the part-time commitment it calls for, "and whatever else that I can provide it." Any discussion about a full-time mayor should come from the citizens or the city, he said.

Furness said he believes Swenson is a "very strong" candidate for mayor.

"He's very articulate. He's got a strong vision for the city," Furness said.

Swenson enters the political scene when city races are becoming increasingly partisan. During September's special election for City Commission, the top two finishers had backing from the Republican and Democratic parties.

Asked about his political leanings, Swenson said he considers himself someone who evaluates the character of a candidate.

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"I personally have a conservative bent," he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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