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Albrecht, Meehlhause, Erickson win Bemidji elections

BEMIDJI – Bemidji will have a new mayor.

In complete but unofficial results, Rita Albrecht collected 52.9 percent of the vote while incumbent mayor Dave Larson had 46.2 percent in Tuesday night’s election. The vote total, 3,174-2,770, includes absentee votes.

Ward 1 voters selected Michael Meehlhause over Derrick Houle by 55.2 percent to 43.9 percent. Meehlhause received 539 votes compared to 428 for Houle.

In Ward 5, Nancy Erickson received 51.6 percent of the vote to defeat incumbent Greg Negard, who collected 48.1 percent of the vote.

All results reflect totals submitted to the Minnesota Secretary of State, which updated city totals on its website at 1:43 a.m.

Ward 3 Councilor Ron Johnson will retain his seat after running unopposed this year. He works at Lakeland Public Television.


Albrecht, a former city employee and currently the Ward 4 Councilor, has cited her community planning and business experience in the last few months as a benefit to the city.

“The mayor should be the voice of the city,” Albrecht previously wrote to the Pioneer. “We need a mayor who is an unfailing advocate for our community and our residents.”

Albrecht has emphasized the need for Bemidji to have a voice in the state’s discussion of the LGA formula and to redevelop city-owned property.

Larson, who works at EAPC Architects and Engineers as a senior architect, won the race for mayor in 2010, the same year Albrecht won the race for her city council seat.

Larson moved to Bemidji about five years ago and quickly started attending city council meetings and learn-ing about the issues facing the city. He touted his business experience and ability to keep the council working as a team during the campaign.

“I understand and believe in the value of working as a team for the common good of the city,” Larson previously wrote to the Pioneer. He also said the city needs to understand its role as a regional center and continue to lobby for LGA from the state.

The mayor’s annual salary is $12,000 and the term lasts two years.


Meehlhause, who recently graduated from Bemidji State University, is a substitute teacher at Bemidji area schools. Although he is only 23, he said his experience on the BSU Student Senate gave him experience on city issues.

Houle, an instructor at Oak Hills Christian College, first moved to Bemidji in 1989. His wife Rachelle Houle ran for the seat against current Ward 1 Councilor Kevin Waldhausen in 2008. Waldhausen chose not to run this year.

Ward 1 represents many of the neighborhoods surrounding BSU, and includes many rental units alongside homeowners.

City council salaries are $10,000 annually and the term lasts four years.


Erickson is a retired accountant who held the seat from 2001 to 2008 before running for mayor against Richard Lehmann.

When reached Tuesday night, Erickson said she wanted to thank people who took the time to vote.

“I really appreciate the support,” Erickson said.

Negard, who first won his seat in 2008, is currently the executive director for Paul Bunyan Transit.

Ward 5 includes the Nymore neighborhood and the east side of Lake Bemidji bordering Bemidji Township.

City council salaries are $10,000 annually and the term lasts four years.


Because the Ward 4 City Council seat is now vacant, the council is responsible for appointing an eligible person to fill it until the next municipal election.

The city charter also states that if “the council fails to fill the vacancy within 30 days following the declaration of a vacancy, the city clerk shall call for a special election to be held not sooner than 90 days and not later than 120 days following the declaration of the vacancy.”

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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