Prince defeats Meehlhause in Bemidji mayoral race

Jorge Prince horizontal.jpg
Jorge Prince

Editor's note: Beltrami County officials announced on Wednesday morning that due to an error some absentee ballots were not correctly added to the Secretary of State's website, causing counts to be listed inaccurately. Vote totals now reflect the official winner of the mayoral race.

BEMIDJI -- Jorge Prince is on track to become Bemidji's next mayor.

With updated vote counts Wednesday afternoon, the 48-year-old Chief Financial Officer of LaValley Industries held his lead over Ward 1 City Council member Michael Meehlhause, 31, by nearly a 60-40% margin. With 6,536 votes in, Prince had 3,919 while Meehlhause had 2,617.

This was Prince's second bid for mayor, as he ran in 2014, where he was defeated by Rita Albrecht, 2,267-1,827. Before his current position, Prince was the executive director of BSU's Small Business Development Center.

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Before the election, Prince told the Pioneer that he will work to diversify the economy so more jobs are available in high tech and manufacturing industries.

"Those types of jobs can provide careers to provide for families," Prince said. "I'm very concerned about poverty and the lack of opportunity in Bemidji. We have 27% poverty and our median income is 34,000 per household according to the census. That's in part because we lack good paying jobs that provide careers, health insurance and retirement."

Meehlhause, who was elected to the Council in 2012 and reelected in 2016, is also an academic advisor at Trek North High School.

Ahead of the election, during a debate, Meehlhause said, "my vision for the city of Bemidji is to build upon our accomplishments. To foster an environment that attracts talent, raises up our residents, grows our community and improves our quality of life."

Prince and Meehlhause were the top two finishers in an August primary out of six candidates. The others in the race were John Henningsgaard, Robert Elliott, Mark Thorson and Ivan Smith.

Albrecht isn't running for another term as mayor, as she's seeking a seat in the Minnesota Senate.

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