New Moorhead mayor ready to 'effect positive change,' tackle infrastructure challenges

From railroad underpasses to lift stations, Carlson says city's future on track

Shelly Carlson is the new mayor of Moorhead. David Samson / The Forum

MOORHEAD — Shelly Carlson was elected to the Moorhead City Council in November of 2018 to fill a Ward 2 seat that belonged to a council member who resigned in April of that year.

"I was elected on a Tuesday, and I started the following Monday. Apparently, that's the only way I do public service; I just start immediately," said Carlson, who experienced another abrupt change this past week when she was appointed to the job of mayor following the resignation of Johnathan Judd.

Judd left the post to take a Minnesota District Court judgeship.

Shelly Carlson city council candidate photo
Shelly Carlson, second from left, poses with fellow candidates Deb White, far left, Shelly Dahlquist, Rachel Stone, Kara Gloe and Tina Walker for a photo in July 2018. The women all supported each other in their campaigns for Moorhead City Council and Moorhead School Board. Forum file photo.


Carlson said that when she was elected to the council in 2018 she was excited to win, never thinking that two years into her four-year term she would become mayor.

Still, she said, she welcomes the challenges promised by the new job, such as the inherited post of chair of the F-M Diversion Board of Authority, a role Judd had taken on before his departure.

Carlson oversaw her first authority board meeting on Thursday of last week.

"I like to be in positions where I can effect positive change for individuals in the community, and that's what I've been doing my whole professional career," said Carlson, who works as the criminal justice systems manager with the Minnesota Elder Justice Center, a statewide nonprofit organization focused on elder justice work.

She also has experience in the public sphere as the director of victims services at the Clay County Attorney's Office, and for more than a decade she has travelled to places around the globe to help educate law enforcement professionals and others on how to respond effectively to domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as elder issues.

"I think I just have always had a passion for public service with everything I've ever done in my career and even in my free time," Carlson said, adding that as mayor her priorities will include guiding the city on a number of fronts, particularly when it comes to infrastructure.

She said that will include asking residents of the city to support a sales tax that would pay for a new library and community center, as well as maintaining the momentum on a number of pending projects, such as railroad underpasses at 20th Street and 11th Street.

Carlson said another priority is flood mitigation, which involves ongoing city buyouts of properties historically at risk for flooding and the completion of lift station projects.


"We're so close to closing the loop on that and getting it done," she said. The work the city of Moorhead is finishing combined with the diversion project will someday result in Moorhead residents never having "to worry about flooding again," she added.

Carlson said her work with the Minnesota Elder Justice Center involves bringing together different organizations and agencies to make sure seniors are able to live their lives in dignity, an idea she said also applies to the work of municipal government.

"That's the city, too," she said. "We want to work together to ensure our citizens are safe and live a happy and vibrant life."

Her visits around the globe aiding groups in their efforts to protect vulnerable populations have taught her that no matter where people live, the things that they dream and hope for, things like peace and security, are universal.

"People are people," she said.

"We have the same issues and problems," she added. "We're all just striving to do the best we can and live healthy lives, have fun and live in a place, a community, we like to call home."

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at
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