BEMIDJI -- A trio of residents, including an incumbent with 20 years of experience, are running to represent Bemidji Ward 3 for the next four years.
Ron Johnson, 69, is seeking a sixth term on the city council. Those looking to unseat Johnson are 48-year-old Greg Kuhn and 74-year-old Paul Wiese.
In the case of both Kuhn and Wiese, the reason for their candidacy and their campaigns will be shaped by the residents of the ward.
"There's an opening in Ward 3, and I figured I might as well run for it," Wiese told the Pioneer. "I'll check with the people of Ward 3 to see what they want to have going on."
A lifelong Bemidji-area resident, Wiese brings government experience as he was previously on the Northern Township Board. He was brought into the city's limits after a recent annexation. Outside of his work with the township, Wiese is a U.S. Army veteran and is now retired, after working in the septic system industry.
Kuhn, meanwhile, is also listening to residents, and he told the Pioneer it was his reason for launching a campaign.
"I'd been thinking about it for two or three years, at least a couple of cycles," Kuhn said. "I've heard people complain about things and it seemed like everyone was talking to me about complaints. I thought, 'maybe it's time to stop complaining about the complaining and do something about it."
If elected, Kuhn said he'd stay open to ideas that people share.
"I want to be there, listening to what people are talking about and working on what's important to them," Kuhn said. "I feel like Ward 3 has been misrepresented for a while, and it's time for fresh leadership."
Originally from Elk River, Kuhn moved to Bemidji in 2001 and earned an associate's degree from Northwest Technical College and a bachelor's degree from BSU. He now works as an asset manager at Peterson Sheet Metal.
If he wins in the August primary and in November, he said he will also work on economic development for the city.
"My focus is to attract businesses to the city, and grow our revenue so we can do the things we're accustomed to," Kuhn said.
In his bid for another term on the council, Johnson said his commitment is to carrying on issues the city is currently working on. Mainly, this includes the Sanford Center and a new treatment facility at the city's water wells.
With the latter, the city is in the process of building a new water treatment plant at the city's water wells near the Bemidji Regional Airport. The plant will treat chemicals, previously found in firefighting foams, that have been discovered near and in the wells. The estimated cost of the project is $16.3 million and the city is hoping to get $8 million in state bonding money, as well as possible financial assistance through a new sales tax.
The Sanford Center, meanwhile, is a city-owned event facility managed by Ames, Iowa-based VenuWorks. The building, opened in 2010, is home to the BSU men's and women's hockey teams. It contains a 4,373-seat arena and attached conference space.
On an annual basis, the city will budget hundreds of thousands of dollars as an operating investment into the facility, with the number coming to $450,000 in 2019. Additionally, the building is in need of an estimated $750,000 in capital maintenance costs on a yearly basis. As a result, the city is also exploring sales tax options for the event center.
"By far the biggest issue is the city's water and the water wells," Johnson said. "I also support the Sanford Center, but I'm not supportive of the money we spend on the management team. Maybe we could use that money we send to Iowa on helping to take care of our tenant. We want to keep our tenant and keep that place going, just with a different way of managing it."
Outside of his role with the city, Johnson is the design and promotion manager at Lakeland PBS. He studied visual arts and graphic design, as well as television and radio broadcasting while attending Alexandria Community and Technical College, BSU and Brown College in Minneapolis.
On Aug. 11, a primary election will take place for Ward 3, and the top two finishers will go onto the general election in November.