BEMIDJI -- Bemidji Ward 5 Councilor Nancy Erickson has resigned after 16 years in local government.
In a letter signed Sept. 8, Erickson wrote, "the council is moving Bemidji in fundamental directions that I can't support. I am no longer able to effectively represent our citizens with confidence. It is with deep regret that I must submit my resignation from the Bemidji City Council effective immediately."
The resignation letter was sent a day after the council voted 4-3 to terminate the city's contract with Iowa-based company VenuWorks. Since the city-owned Sanford Center opened in 2010, VenuWorks has been the management company overseeing day-to-day operations at the event facility.
Joining Erickson in voting against the move was Ward 4 Councilmember Emelie Rivera and At Large Councilor Daniel Jourdain. Voting in favor were Mayor Jorge Prince and Ward 1, 2 and 3 Councilors Audrey Thayer, Josh Peterson and Ron Johnson.
The city must now declare both a council vacancy and a special election at the next meeting. This will be the third special election for the city in the last year and a half.
In January 2020, Mike Beard, elected in 2018, resigned from the position, citing health reasons. In August 2020, Peterson defeated Jaime Thibodeaux, 397-356 for the Ward 2 seat.
In February, Jourdain defeated Dave Larson in a special runoff election 524-410. The election was needed as the late Jim Thompson had to retire in mid-2020, also because of health reasons. Thompson had also been elected in 2018.
Erickson was first elected to the council in 2000 and defeated Herb South 682-565 to hold the Ward 5 seat in 2004. Instead of seeking another term in 2008 as a councilmember, Erickson ran for mayor but was defeated by Richard Lehmann, 3,512-2,625.
In speaking to the Pioneer, Erickson praised the work of city employees during her time in office.
"I want to thank the employees of the city," Erickson said. "I want to thank all of the city staff for their advice and counsel during my time in service to the public. They're excellent employees and they make my job so much easier. I believe the city runs well because of their dedication to excellence."
In 2012, Erickson won back the Ward 5 seat, defeating Greg Negard 741-691. In 2016, Erickson won reelection against Don Heinonen, 682-664. Erickson won her third consecutive election in 2020, once again defeating Heinonen, 797-637.
"I appreciate all the support I've had over this time," Erickson said. "I feel badly that I'm not finishing out my term, but I feel they need representation that's more in line, perhaps, with other members of the council. The council requires teamwork."
Ward 5 in Bemidji includes the Nymore area and extends along the south and east sides of Lake Bemidji.