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Local contests add to ballot interest

The city of Northome may have a mayor after next month's election, and will have a council, but at the moment, the make up of their governing body is pretty much up in the air.

Mayor Jim Schneider is giving up his seat, and thus far no one has filed for the office nor has a write-in candidate evinced any interest in running for the two-year term.

Northome council member Jerry Struss did file for another term, but Chad Lindley earlier not only declined to serve another term, but resigned effective Aug. 1.

The balance of Lindley's term will be filled by Bill Eitenmiller, who was scheduled to be sworn in Oct. 6. He is also a candidate for one of the three open seats on the Northome School Board in November's elections.

The office of mayor is also open in Blackduck, where incumbent Scott Palmer is being opposed by former council member Jason Riggs.

Palmer has served in city government for eight years, first as a council member and then as mayor when he was named to succeed Bob Gannon, who resigned. Palmer had also served more than 20 years on the city fire department, 14 as chief. During that time, he recalls, the addition of new equipment and training helped bring the department into the new century.

Looking ahead, he sees as an important goal making Blackduck businesses viable. He says his own nursery business, which he started in 1983, is an important reminder to him of the need for a welcoming atmosphere. The walking trail, which he hopes to see expanded and a second playground, perhaps in the wayside rest, are among things Palmer would like to see happen.

After high school, Palmer left for about 10 years but returned to Blackduck where he and his wife made their home, raised a daughter and started a business. All that time he retained the idea that he "wanted to serve the community, a commitment I felt strongly about."

Palmer will be opposed by Jason Riggs. Riggs served as a member of the city council, elected to a four year term beginning in 2005. Earlier he had been chosen to serve Blackduck as its police chief and then worked as a deputy in the Beltrami County sheriff's office. He was named a sergeant and field operations supervisor for the sheriff's office a month ago.

A veteran of the first Gulf war, Riggs served in the Navy for four years on active duty and another year in inactive service. He later joined the Minnesota Army National Guard. He and his wife, Kate, moved to Blackduck in 2002, and are raising their four youngsters ranging in age from 2 to 11. Riggs was born in Bemidji, spent most of his school years growing up in Deer River, and then underwent years of schooling and training in law enforcement.

As many other candidates often mentioned, Riggs says future cuts in state aid to local governments looms as one the biggest problems smaller cities and towns face. "It will mean tough decisions," he said, "if budgets have to be cut and services have to be cut back."

In Kelliher, mayor Darin Latterell is running unopposed, the only municipal chief executive in that position but with council contests in all three cities.

Council positions are open in Kelliher and in Blackduck as well as in Northome.

Blackduck councilman Daryl Lundberg will be unopposed for another four-year term, but fellow council member Kevin Beck did not seek another term. That opening will see Cory Veasey asking voters to elect him to fill that four-year term opening.

Lundberg, involved with the family-owned Northwoods Lumber business which is marking its 37th year of operations, was born and raised in the Blackduck area and explains his interest in running with a simple, "I like to be involved."

A relative newcomer to Blackduck, Veasey is a technical consultant, working with businesses anxious to take advantage of ways to utilize new technology. He and his wife have three daughters, aged 7, 9 and "almost 15."

After vacationing here a few years ago, they decided Blackduck was where they wanted to live. Asked why he wanted to serve on the council, Veasey answered quickly: "I'd like to help keep Blackduck the town we fell in love with."

Three candidates are seeking election to fill the two open seats on the Kelliher council. They are Dan Persons, Richard Skoe and Gene Erickson.

Persons has worked for 19 years as a commercial flooring installer, the last 13 as the owner of his own flooring business. His wife works two nights a week in the community library in the Kelliher School. Their two daughters, 6 and 9, attend school in Kelliher.

"In a small town, there's an opportunity to make a difference," Persons said, "and I'd like to help make Kelliher better for everyone. Everybody has a duty to pitch in," he added, "and it's time for me to do it, too."

Skoe is not new to serving in elective office. He was on the council from 1993 to 1996, and from 1996 to 2007 served on the Kelliher Sschool Board. He and his wife have three youngsters. Since 1987, Skoe has owned the Village One-Stop in Kelliher.

"When I was on the council, I felt I had helped make a difference." Then he added, "I'm not running now because I have an issue or anything. I just feel that I'd like to help make a difference again."

Gene Erickson is retired after a number of years operating his own sawmill business in Kelliher, the town where he was born and raised, and where he and his wife, Sue, went on to raise their own family.