New Ward 1 candidates are dedicated to change
BEMIDJI -- Two Bemidjians who had been considering a run for office have decided to throw their hats in the 2020 ring.
During the filing period, Ryan Enger, 35, and Adam Hellquist, 40, completed the paperwork to launch their candidacies for Bemidji Ward 1. For Hellquist, the drive to run was partially inspired by his father, Roger Hellquist, who was a member of the city council from 2004-2018.
"I watched my dad be a city council member for quite a few years, so it was always an interest for me," Hellquist said. "What made me want to go ahead with actually filing was just knowing that the one spot in Ward 1 was up. It seemed like a good opportunity. There's a lot of change happening on the council, and having been a citizen of Bemidji all my life, I want to be part of that decision making process."
Hellquist is a graduate and earned a master's degree online from the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth. Currently, he works in information technology as a systems administrator.
If elected, Hellquist said he'd likely focus on some of the major issues the city is already dealing with. These include operations at the city-owned Sanford Center event facility and the construction of a new plant to treat Bemidji's water wells for chemicals.
Seeking a spot on the council was also on the mind of Enger, who said this election cycle was the best time to launch a bid for office.
"Part of what motivated me to run was the timing in my life, since it works out fairly well," Enger said.
Enger moved to Bemidji in grade school in the 1990s. After graduating high school, he attended an automotive school in Chicago before coming back to Bemidji in 2004 to work as a mechanic. He's now studying criminal justice at BSU with a minor in indigenous studies while also working as a shuttle driver for the DoubleTree hotel in Bemidji.
"I want to be active, and I want to do something to better the community," Enger said. "I see all of these people want change, and to actually get change moving, you have to be politically active and get involved in the process. That's what I'm trying to do."
If he's successful in his bid, Enger said he'd like to have a dialogue about race relations in the city.
"A lot of this race stuff is very concerning," Enger said. "Having that minor in indigenous studies, for me, helps me see a lot of what the Native Americans and other minorities here have to go through on a daily basis."
Current Ward 1 Council member Michael Meehlhause isn't seeking another term, as he's running for the position of Bemidji Mayor. Other Ward 1 candidates are Joe Gould, Audrey Thayer and Laura Fairbanks.