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Three more file for Bemidji City Council

Three new candidates added their names Friday to those seeking a seat on the Bemidji City Council.

Dave Larson, a Ward 4 resident, filed to run for mayor. He joins candidates Ron Johnson, the current Ward 3 councilor; resident Adam Steele; and resident Laverne "Pedie" Pederson in the mayoral race thus far. Current Mayor Richard Lehmann is not seeking re-election as he has been endorsed by the Republican Party to oppose incumbent Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, for the House 4A seat..

Filing for the Ward 4 councilor seat was Rita Albrecht, the former community development director. She will run against incumbent Councilor Jerry Downs.

Also filing was Ward 4 resident Byron J. Rock, who is seeking the at-large councilor position on the council. He will run against resident Jim Thompson. Barb Meuers, the current at-large councilor, has announced that she will not be seeking re-election.

Races have not yet been finalized: Filing for Bemidji City Council runs through Tuesday.

Also up for election this fall is the Ward 2 councilor position, currently held by Roger Hellquist. As of Friday, no one had yet filed for that position.

Albrecht is a familiar face around City Hall.

She previously worked as the assistant city planner for about 2½ years. She briefly left city staff to take a job with the Headwaters Regional Development Commission before returning in May 2008 as the city's community development director. That position was eliminated by the council in August 2009.

Albrecht, in a news release, said she brings "an understanding of the political, cultural and economic context of the region."

"I made the decision to run after being approached by many community members who believe that I can bring positive energy to the council, with an eye on building consensus for the greater community good," she said in the release.

Prior to her planning career, Albrecht also worked as a teacher and adjunct professor and coordinator of service learning at Bemidji State University. She has lived in Bemidji for 34 years. Albrecht and her husband, Mike, owned and operated the A&W Family Restaurant in Bemidji for 11 years.

"Bemidji citizens deserve elected officials who will represent all sectors of our community," she said in the release. "I've heard time and time again that residents want leaders who are willing to engage in creative and collaborative decision-making.

"They want leaders who understand and respect the City Charter, which is our community's constitution. They want leaders who value the traditions of transparency, fairness, and accountability in governance."

She noted that the city will need to address several issues, including a loss in state revenue, annexation and long-range planning, development and sale of city-owned property, operation of the Bemidji Regional Event Center, maintaining an adequate housing stock and attractive neighborhoods and park development and ongoing park maintenance.

Albrecht serves on several local initiatives and boards, including the United Way of Bemidji Area, Community Resource Connections, Peacemaker Resources, BSU Alumni Association, Shared Vision committee and Active Living Bemidji Partnership.

She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, a graduate of the Northwest Minnesota Foundation Leadership Programs I and II, and will graduate in June from the Blandin Foundation leader training program, Leadership in Ethnically Diverse Communities.

"Like most area residents, I believe that even in challenging economic times, Bemidji is a wonderful community that has a lot to celebrate," she said. "I plan to bring my passion for Bemidji to work on behalf of the citizens of the entire community as the Ward 4 representative."