BEMIDJI -- Another newcomer to local government will be joining the Bemidji City Council soon after Tuesday's special election.
According to results from the Bemidji City Clerk's office, 35-year-old Daniel Jourdain has defeated Dave Larson, 76, for the at-large seat on the council. In total, Jourdain received 524 votes, while Larson earned 410.
Jourdain, an employment specialist with the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, and Larson, a semi-retired architect, were the top two finishers in a previous special election held in November. The other candidates in the first round for the at-large seat were 74-year-old Linda Lemmer, a retired rehabilitation counselor, and 75-year-old Roger Schmidt, a retired educator who was once the superintendent of Red Lake School District.
In the November race, Larson finished with 2,160 votes, followed by Jourdain with 1,784, Lemmer with 1,319 and Schmidt with 777. However, on Tuesday, it was Jourdain finishing in first place.
On Wednesday, Jourdain said in a statement that he wants to work with constituents to "build Bemidji to be more beautiful, transparent and diverse."
"I believe in the fabric of teamwork, partnerships and togetherness, and that is what we will continue to be promoting," Jourdain said. "I understand that we have a short time remaining in this at-large position, but we want to make the best of it. Like we did in the campaign, we will hit the ground running."
Had Larson prevailed, it would have been his third term in Bemidji city government. Larson served as the city's mayor from 2010-2012 and as a Council member from 2014-2018.
The special elections on Tuesday and in November were required as the previous holder of the seat, Jim Thompson, had to retire in June 2020 because of health reasons. Thompson had won the seat in 2018, defeating Don Heinonen, 2,217-2,182. Thompson had also served on the council from 2010-2014.
Because the at-large seat term began in 2018, Jourdain will hold the position through 2022. A total of 935 Bemidjians voted in the special election, with one write-in vote. The results are scheduled to be certified on Friday, Feb. 12.
The competition for the at-large seat was the second special election in the past year for the city, as another race was held for the Ward 2 seat. In January 2020, Mike Beard resigned from the position, also citing health concerns.
Beard was elected in 2018, defeating Jaime Thibodeaux 397-356. In August 2020, Josh Peterson won the special election for Ward 2, also defeating Thibodeaux by a margin of 224-140. Peterson, the executive director of the convention and visitors bureau, Visit Bemidji, will also serve through 2022.
Tuesday's special election concludes a big cycle for the city of Bemidji. In November, the city elected Jorge Prince, the chief financial officer of LaValley Industries, as its new mayor. Prince defeated Michael Meehlhause, 3,919-2,617.
It was Prince's second bid for mayor, as he ran in 2014, too. Previous Mayor Rita Albrecht, who defeated Prince in 2014, opted not to run for reelection, and instead made an unsuccessful bid for the Minnesota Senate.
Three other regularly scheduled races also took place in November:
- Leech Lake Tribal College Instructor Audrey Thayer defeated Joe Gould, 476-408 for the Ward 1 seat.
- Ron Johnson, the promotion manager at Lakeland PBS, earned a sixth term on the council, defeating Greg Kuhn for Ward 3, 967-608.
- In Ward 5, Nancy Erickson won reelection over Heinonen, 797-637. Erickson had previously served from 2000-2008, rejoined the council in 2012, and has served since.