BEMIDJI -- Two residents passionate about the city of Bemidji have entered the race to succeed Michael Meehlhause in representing Ward 1 on the council next year.

Joe Gould, 33, and Audrey Thayer, 68, who both have a background in education, filed for the office this week. Thayer, who moved to Bemidji in 1989, is an instructor at Leech Lake Tribal College and has also taught at BSU in an adjunct capacity.

Along with working on her doctorate degree, she saw 2020 as an important time to run for public office.

"I want to do community service," Thayer said. "I'm very wise to community needs. I'm concerned about the bonding bill right now and we need to have safe water here in Bemidji."

In addition to work on the city's water infrastructure, such as a new treatment plant to remove chemicals from the city's water wells, Thayer discussed the importance of helping maintain the economy through the coronavirus pandemic.

"I have a strong heart for local businesses," Thayer said. "The fact that our local businesses have been stretched the past few months is a big concern for me. We have to make sure we're supporting our local businesses."

Along with an educational background, Thayer also ran the American Civil Liberties Union's Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project. Additionally, Thayer has worked for Beltrami County Human Services and the Indian Health Service in Bemidji. Outside of her profession, Thayer has also worked with the city's homeless population at the People's Church and the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless' overnight Wolfe shelter.

Gould, meanwhile, came to Bemidji to attend BSU, graduating in 2010. Following his time in college, Gould picked up experience in his hometown, La Prairie, Minn., as he worked in education and served a term on that city's council. He then worked in St. Paul at the Minnesota Legislature for the Education Finance Committee.

He moved back five years ago, and more recently, Gould said he had been considering making a bid for Ward 1.

"I've always been interested in public service. There's a lot of teachers in my family and grandparents on both sides who have served on city councils," Gould said. "Since there was an opening, I decided to toss my hat in the ring. I have some experience that I think would help the city right now."

As part of his platform, Gould is also highlighting the importance of a new water treatment plant.

"I'm really interested in getting that built and securing state bonding dollars for that," Gould said. "There might still be a chance for that with the potential of a special session coming up, too."

Along with bonding dollars, Gould said if elected he would become a strong advocate for state funding through Minnesota's Local Government Aid program.

If he's successful in November, Gould said he'd also advocate for first responders, the youth and the homeless population.

"I think we need to be as supportive as possible for our police, firefighters and first responders, especially during this time with COVID-19," Gould said. "We can also expand support for youth and the homeless. I sit on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club in Bemidji, so I can bring that experience."

Meehlhause who was first elected in 2012 and reelected in 2016, is now running for the position of Bemidji Mayor.