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Batchelder promises to fight taxes, promote homeownership if elected to Ward 5 seat

Bemidji Woolen Mills Owner Bill Batchelder, 61, is running for the Ward 5 seat on the Bemidji City Council. As a candidate, Batchelder said he wants to reduce taxes and increase the city's tax base.

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Bill Batchelder

BEMIDJI -- Local business owner Bill Batchelder and announced his candidacy for the open Bemidji Ward 5 seat on Tuesday.

Batchelder's announcement comes nearly three months after former Bemidji City Council member Nancy Erickson resigned from the position . Batchelder is the owner of Bemidji Woolen Mills, a downtown store that celebrated its 100th anniversary last year.

A lifelong resident, Batchelder, 61, graduated from BSU with a bachelor's degree in business management, with an emphasis in finance and a minor in economics. In addition to his business profession, Batchelder has also been in the Bemidji Fire Department for nearly four decades.

Initially, Batchelder had intended on serving in the United States military, like many in his family had done. However, his father forbid the move, based on disrespectful sentiment toward service members near the end of the Vietnam War.

Instead, Batchelder said his dad told him to join the Bemidji Fire Department as an act of service to the community. Now, Batchelder said he wants to serve the community in a new way, with a focus on keeping taxes down.

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"If you want more taxes in this community, please don't vote for me," Batchelder said. "I feel the government needs to live within its means as families do. I think in government, it's not always about looking for a new tax or increasing a tax. It's about finding creative ways to live within our means."

As part of his comments on taxes, Batchelder noted how historically, Bemidji has been a city where nearly 50% or more of the real estate has been tax-exempt.

"The average tax-exempt parcels in other Minnesota cities make up 15%," Batchelder said. "What I propose is expanding industry, single-family homes, retail and every other chance we get to increase the tax base by adding to the tax roll.

"It's a glaring problem, and I want to attack that head-on. The new revenue generated by increasing our tax base can go to the expansion of government, but not new levies and not new types of taxes. I'm also dead set against a hospitality tax. That is the craziest thing I've ever heard of."

Another focus of Batchelder's campaign is public safety in Bemidji. Batchelder told the Pioneer that one way to help solve the issue is increasing homeownership.

"We have seen what has happened in the northern part of our community by congregating a large number of people in very tight spaces, with gun violence, assaults and theft," Batchelder said. "It's a horrible disaster.

"I truly believe more single-family homeownership will reduce crime in our community," said Batchelder. "Whether it's through education, the Headwaters Regional Development Commission, or a joint partnership, but at every crossroads, I'm going to be promoting single-family homes. It's not a complete cure-all, but it's taking a step in the right direction."

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Other residents in the Ward 5 race are Lynn Eaton, Don Heinonen and Micaiah Graham. The filing period for the Ward 5 race closes Dec. 14.

A special election is scheduled for Feb. 8, 2022, with Northwest Technical College serving as the polling place. If nobody receives more than 50% of the votes cast, a runoff election will take place in August 2022.

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Bill Batchelder

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