Baxter to interview 4 applicants for open council seat

The council has received four applications for John Ward’s vacancy and will be interviewing the candidates on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023.

Baxter City Hall at dusk, snow and ice are all around. A person walks toward the door.
Baxter City Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, in Baxter.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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BAXTER — Four candidates applied to fill an open seat on the Baxter City Council.

The council plans to fill the open seat, previously held by John Ward, after interviewing the applicants on Jan. 19.

Ward was first elected to Baxter City Council during the 2020 election. During the 2022 election, Ward decided to run for a special two-year seat on the Brainerd School Board. He was the top vote-getter and was sworn in on the school board during its December meeting, forcing him to resign from Baxter City Council.

Baxter received four applications from residents interested in filling the position. Each interview will be conducted by council members and city staff and will have a time allotment of 30 minutes.

The four people who applied are — Thomas Sutherland, Jeff Phillips, Kenneth Toole and Adam Purcell.


Sutherland is newer to the community, having moved to Baxter in 2019. He has experience as a retired attorney and administrative law judge. He hopes to use his law experience in insurance defense to help interpret statutes and regulations, according to his application for city council.

Phillips is also a newer resident to Baxter, living there for two years. He is a retired staff judge advocate attorney for the U.S. Air Force. He also has worked as a municipal police officer in Charleston, South Carolina, and a streets maintenance employee with the city of Apple Valley, a Twin Cities suburb. Currently he works as an education assistant at Forestview Middle School. According to his application, he hopes to use his background to give a “unique perspective on the day-to-day functioning of a municipality.”

According to his application, Toole says he comes from a background of service. He is a military veteran, former district executive for the Boy Scouts of America and is currently a social studies teacher at Central Lakes Adventure School. He received degrees in political science and mass communications.

The final applicant, Purcell, spent most of his life in the Brainerd lakes area. He is a veteran and describes himself as “good at conflict resolution,” according to his application. He also stated he “believes in fiscal and personal responsibilities and equality/fairness.” He applied because he would like to have a say in the future of the area he’s spent most of his life in.

The four applicants will be interviewed starting at 5 p.m. Jan. 19 at Baxter City Hall.

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Knollwood residents gathered at city hall for an assessment hearing regarding assessments for the upcoming Knollwood Improvement Project tentatively planned for 2023.
Four applicants were interviewed and Jeff Phillips was appointed for the open city council seat previously held by John Ward.

SARA GUYMON may be reached at 218-855-5851 or at . Follow her on Twitter at .

Sara Guymon recently joined the Brainerd Dispatch as a staff writer.
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