BEMIDJI -- For just over two decades, John Henningsgaard has been a resident of Bemidji and he feels the city has been on the right track.

He's now running for mayor to make sure it continues in a positive direction.

Henningsgaard, 63, is a BSU graduate and has lived in the city for 21 years. He recently retired from a career teaching math and English, opening up time for him to run for office.

"I've always been interested in politics," said Henningsgaard. "I believe in government as a tool to improve people's lives. I want to participate in that. City government seems like a good fit for me."

Over the course of his time living in the city, Henningsgaard said he's been happy with the rate of growth taking place.

"I think the city has done, or at least participated, in a lot of good things in the 20 years I've been here," Henningsgaard said. "The city has grown and developed in a lot of good ways. I think we're on the right track, but I also think there are some challenges."

One of those challenges is the operation of the city-owned Sanford Center event facility. Managed by the Ames, Iowa-based company VenuWorks, the Sanford Center opened in 2010 and contains a 4,373-seat arena and attached conference space.

On an annual basis, the city budgets hundreds of thousands of dollars as an operating investment for the facility, with the 2019 amount coming to $450,000. Additionally, the facility is in need of nearly $750,000 yearly for capital maintenance. Recently, the city has been seeking authorization for a sales tax to help with the facility's costs.

In speaking to the Pioneer, Henningsgaard expressed support for a special use tax, and also said "I'd like to see the citizens of Bemidji get more back for their investment. I think it'd be great if we could open up the Sanford Center more for some activities for the community."

Another issue Henningsgaard noted was providing adequate housing for the community.

"There's a lot of older housing in Bemidji, and I think the more opportunities we can come up with to help people own homes and to improve their homes, the better," Henningsgaard said. "I think the city government just needs to be a good partner in these types of places, to do what it can to foster these things."