Ward announces write-in campaign for open Baxter City Council seat

John Ward, a retired educator, insurance agent, former state representative and mayor of Proctor, has launched a write-in campaign to fill an empty seat on the Baxter City Council.

John Ward

The open seat on the Baxter City Council may not have any declared candidates for the upcoming election, but a resident with a familiar name is throwing his hat in the ring for a write-in campaign.

John Ward, 70, the former state representative for Minnesota House District 10A, announced his intention to run as a write-in candidate for one of two seats on the Baxter City Council with a news release earlier this week.

In the release, Ward noted he’s been happy with the council’s management of the city in recent years and praised council member Todd Holman’s 13-year tenure on the governing body. Holman decided not to file for another term and, with only one declared candidate up for two seats, a write-in candidate is the most likely scenario to fill the council’s fifth chair.

“I still have desire, passion and determination to serve,” Ward said during a phone interview Thursday, Sept. 17. “I have a wide variety of experience that I could offer to the city under that capacity. ... I believe I have the knowledge, the passion, the fire, the dedication to serve the city of Baxter and move our city forward.”

In the release and during the phone interview, Ward leaned on his track record as a lawmaker with proven results — both in the state Legislature and as a former mayor of Proctor — where he said his terms have exemplified a personal ethos of strengthening communities from the ground up, exercising fiscal responsibility and a willingness to go to bat for local causes.


He touted a proliferation of capital investment initiatives in Proctor during his time as mayor and stated he would advocate for Local Government Aid funding for Baxter, much as he secured additional forms of funding for Proctor. At this time, Baxter does not receive Local Government Aid funding, unlike many cities in the lakes area. He also said he would look to continue fostering Baxter’s nature recreation attractions, particularly walking and bike trails, which he said are a boon for the community that will pay dividends for years to come.

Ward, who was vocally opposed to aspects of the South Interceptor and North Forestview Improvement Project and assessments tied to it, said city government needs to have a futuristic mindset, always considering the long-term ramifications and benefits of its decisions. The city is installing sewer-water lines to local properties in what’s been billed as a measure to protect the environment and comply with state water purity standards. Properties around North Forestview Drive are serviced by septic tanks — many of them aging and lacking any kind of certified testing for decades, city officials have said.

In the case of the South Interceptor, Ward said its high assessments were tied, in many ways, to poor decisions and short-term thinking in the 1990s that came back to bite the community. That’s a mistake he would look to avoid, he said.

“It's so important to have a futuristic, open-minded vision for any project that the city does, whether it be residential projects, whether it be business development, whether it be a senior citizen center or the senior housing complex, an elementary school — whatever it is,” Ward said. “You need to have a vision.”

A retired educator in the Brainerd School District and former insurance agent, Ward served eight years in the Minnesota House between 2006 to 2014, which represented a return to public office after stints as council member, then mayor of Proctor in the late 1970s through early 1980s. He’s been married to his wife Sally for 46 years, and enjoys four children and 11 grandchildren. He said he’s lived in the Brainerd lakes area since 1987 — first Brainerd, then Baxter in 2012 — and has been active in the community, whether in a public or private capacity during that time.

Ward, who splits his time between Baxter in the warmer months and Fort Myers, Florida, during the colder months, said he may communicate with the council for stretches at a time via virtual telecommunications sessions. New technology means council members can be effective while not being physically present, Ward said, and COVID-19 has served as a great indicator that it can work. Ward said he doesn’t know if he’ll be heading to Florida this winter, but it ultimately doesn’t matter. Whether he’s living in a warmer climate, or because he needs to protect his and his family’s health during the pandemic, Ward said he’s confident he’ll be able to virtually represent the people of Baxter effectively.

“The world is changing,” Ward said. “My passion, dedication, knowledge or spirit isn’t going to be any less because of a virus or because I’m not there.”

State law allows a city council member to attend a meeting remotely with conditions.


The League of Minnesota Cities summarized the four conditions as:

  • At least one councilmember is physically present at the regular meeting location.

  • All council members must be able to hear and see each other and all discussion and testimony presented at any location at which at least one council member is present.

  • All members of the public at the regular meeting location must be able to hear and see all discussion, testimony and votes of all council members.

  • Each location at which a council member is present must be open and accessible to the public.

The city of Baxter does not have a policy for the council or staff to participate remotely with the exception of the current pandemic where the Minnesota state of emergency is allowing the city to conduct virtual meetings.
Editor's note: A previous version of this particle inaccurately stated John Ward, a candidate for the Baxter City Council, has five children. John Ward has four children.

In addition, the article erroneously stated John Ward and his family moved to Baxter in 1987 and has lived there ever since. In actuality, the Ward family moved to Brainerd in 1987 and lived there until 2012, when they moved to Baxter and have resided there to the present day. The Dispatch regrets these errors.

GABRIEL LAGARDE may be reached at or 218-855-5859. Follow at .

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