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John Carlson wins District 5 seat on Beltrami County Board over Sandy Hennum

On the strength of a sizable advantage in Northern Township in the election on Tuesday, Nov. 8, John Carlson defeated Village of Hope executive director Sandy Hennum for the District 5 seat by 378 votes: 1,890 to 1,512.

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John Carlson
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BEMIDJI — Township voters came through once again for John Carlson, vaulting the 69-year-old retired insurance man onto a seat on the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners.

On the strength of a sizable advantage in Northern Township in the election on Tuesday, Nov. 8, Carlson defeated Village of Hope executive director Sandy Hennum for the District 5 seat by 378 votes: 1,890 to 1,512.

The candidates virtually split 1,800 votes in Bemidji's Wards 2 and 3, but Carlson won Northern Township by a 988 to 606 margin.

That was similar to the 2010 general election when challenger Carlson rode his advantage in surrounding townships to an upset win over incumbent Mary Olson and claimed the District 4 seat in the Minnesota Senate. Olson won the Bemidji city vote that year, but Carlson’s success outside the city led to victory.

This time, Carlson did well enough in the city wards to prevail.

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“I was happy it was that even in the city wards,” he said. “I didn’t know if I would fare that well in the city wards. It’s hard to know.”

He credited his attendance at city, county and township meetings in the run-up to the election for the victory.

“I thought those were all important things to do if you really wanted the job,” said Carlson, who served two years in the Senate before losing to Tom Saxhaug in the 2012 election for a newly created District 5 seat. “I needed to get up to speed on what’s going on.”

There is plenty going on in Beltrami County.

“We’ve got roads to fix, we’ve got a jail to build, and we need some help from the Minnesota Legislature to get some funding for that,” Carlson said. “Having attended the board meetings and the listening sessions for the jail, my eyes were wide open.

"My priorities are public safety, infrastructure and keeping good control of the budget. When you think about it, that jail encompasses all three of those. I think I’m well positioned to help the county as much as anybody in trying to move the project forward.”

The seat was open due to redistricting leading Jim Lucachick, the current District 5 commissioner, to no longer be eligible to run for his seat.

Dennis Doeden, former publisher of the Bemidji Pioneer, is a feature reporter. He is a graduate of Metropolitan State University with a degree in Communications Management.
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