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Brainerd City Council remains unchanged after election

With heavily contested political races all around the area, the Brainerd City Council will remain unchanged for another two years. Mayor Ed Menk and council members Kelly Bevans, Gabe Johnson and Sue Hilgart will remain in their seats. No one cha...

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Gabe Johnson

With heavily contested political races all around the area, the Brainerd City Council will remain unchanged for another two years.

Mayor Ed Menk and council members Kelly Bevans, Gabe Johnson and Sue Hilgart will remain in their seats. No one challenged Menk, Bevans or Johnson, and Hilgart had an opponent until about a month ago. Christopher Mathison originally filed to run against Hilgart for council member at large but announced his exit from the race in early October, citing online defamation, bullying and threats made toward him regarding his campaign.

During the Brainerd and Baxter City Council candidate forum, Hilgart expressed her sadness over Mathison exiting the race, thanked him for stepping up to run for city council in the first place and commended his focus on mental health awareness during his campaign.

Because early voting opened in September, Mathison's name remained on the ballot through Election Day, and he garnered 1,491 votes, or 37.1 percent. Hilgart earned 2,511.

Menk received 3,826 votes, and there were 84 write-ins for mayor. Bevans, Ward 2, got 820 votes, and Johnson, Ward 4, got 813.

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Whether it's voter apathy or a sign the current council is doing a satisfactory job, Menk is glad to see everyone returning.

"I'm hoping it's because the council's doing a great job," he said. "I have to give a lot of credit to the good council we have. All the members may have differing opinions, but they work together to come up with the best possible solutions."

Menk cited growth in the city's business and housing realms as positives he hopes to see continue.

"We work and will continue to work hard to do the best job that we can," he said.

Johnson said he is excited to continue the good things the council has been working on for the last few years.

"I think we'll continue to move in the right direction," Johnson said, noting the budget as a special area of concern for him, as chair of the personnel and finance committee. He described the city's budgetary situation as "challenging" four years ago.

"We've been able to stabilize (the budget), and now we're starting to have available funds and move forward and reach our goals from our strategic plan," Johnson said. "So it's just exciting to go forward into the next four years with what's looking to be some budget flexibility, to be able to accomplish some big goals for the city."

Finances are on Hilgart's mind as well, as is the city's history and the business community, which she said made good strides in the last four years with the downtown revitalization project and the addition of new businesses.

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"We've had some successes, we have had some opportunities that were lost as well, so there's a lot that we have to learn yet in what it takes to be a community of choice for new business," Hilgart said. "I think we have a duty to preserve our history," she said, "with the water tower, with decisions to be made about city hall and where we are with our finances and reducing our debt load rather than choosing to incur new debt."

Bevans said he is honored and humbled to be re-elected to serve the citizens of Brainerd for another term.

"It's really, really been truly an honor these last few years, and I've really enjoyed it and hopefully made myself available for citizen input. I always look for it and look forward to more in the next four years," Bevans said. "We've got a lot of stuff to do. We've got a lot of good things coming in the city of Brainerd."

"All in all," Mayor Menk said, "it's a good time to be a Brainerd resident."

Related Topics: ELECTION 2018
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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