Thompson resigns from Bemidji At-Large seat, special election needed

Jim Thompson web art.jpg
Jim Thompson

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji City Council will need to declare a vacancy in the at-large seat Monday, as Jim Thompson has resigned from the position.

According to city documents, Thompson submitted his resignation in a letter dated June 4. As a result, the city must declare both a vacancy and a special election.

"Although it is my desire to continue to serve the Bemidji community as a city council member, due to health circumstances, as well as restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am no longer able to fulfill my duties," Thompson wrote. "I would like to extend my sincere appreciation for the opportunity to serve the community throughout my tenure to date."

Thompson, 87, sent the letter from his room at Sanford Health's Neilson Place nursing home. He earned the at-large seat in 2018, where he defeated Don Heinonen 2,217-2,182.

His most recent term was his second on the council, as he had also served from 2010-2014. He also served on the Northern Township Board before having a seat with the city.


In the past few weeks, though, Thompson had been absent from council meetings, which have been held online and by phone because of the coronavirus. At the June 1 meeting, the subject of Thompson's position was brought forward, as its city charter to consider a vacancy after three unexcused absences.

After a discussion, the council opted to allow a two week period for Thompson to submit excuses for his absences and a plan detailing how he would continue serving in the at-large capacity. With his resignation filed now, though, the council will have to take action at its next meeting on June 15.

In the proposed resolution attached to the council's agenda for Monday, the filing period would be set from July 28-Aug. 11, with a special election taking place Nov. 3. If more than two individuals file, and no candidate earns more than 50% in November, a second special election with the top two finishers would take place Feb. 9, 2021.

This would mark the second special election in the city this year, as Mike Beard resigned from the Bemidji Ward 2 seat in January, citing health reasons. That special election is set for Aug. 11.

Other city elections in this cycle include Wards 1, 3 and 5, as well as the position of Bemidji Mayor.

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