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Alexandria City Council to take on new look

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The Alexandria City Council will have a new look when it convenes in 2013.

Sara Carlson, who has been serving as Ward 2's council member, will be the new mayor. She defeated Mark Pederson in Tuesday's election by a margin of 3,771 votes to 2,216. Incumbent Mayor Dan Ness is stepping down from the council.

"I'm very excited and happy and ready to continue the work of the city," she said Wednesday.

Carlson believes her nine years of experience on the council was a key factor in her victory. "Continuity of leadership and experience is important for the mayor's job," she said.

As mayor, Carlson said one of her priorities will be to continue the council's goal of merging the street and park departments into public works. She said the city will also be looking at other cost-saving ideas with the county.

"For right now, with the economy the way it is, the best thing we can do is work on keeping the city vital and taxes down," she said, adding that the city shouldn't be taking on any big projects in the near future.

With Carlson leaving the Ward 2 position, the council will need to appoint someone from that ward to fill out the remaining two years of the term.

In the past, the council has asked for applications and members make motions on whom to appoint. The winner must receive a majority of the council's votes.

Carlson said she wants the process to be as transparent as possible. She suggested forming a committee that will look over the applications and interview possible candidates.

Since the process is up to the council to decide, there is no definite timeline, according to City Administrator Jim Taddei. The appointment process could be completed by the end of the year.

There will also be a new face in Ward 5. Challenger Todd Jensen defeated incumbent Elroy Frank, 489 to 377.

"I am thrilled and humbled by the amount of support I got and am looking forward to representing the people of my ward and the community," Jensen said Wednesday.

Jensen said people voted for him because they wanted more accountability in the budget. "There was just a general feeling out there that spending was a little bit out of control," he said.

When he takes office, Jensen said he plans to look into the two-mile building zone radius outside the city limits that requires people to pay additional fees for building projects. "I think it's wrong to double charge that area," he said.

Jensen said he also wants to make sure that the event center idea the city is exploring will take into consideration the "voice of the people" instead of the council pushing it through.

Ward 3 council member Owen Miller retained his position by defeating challenger William Stark, 736 to 462.

"I'm pleased with the results," Miller said Wednesday. "When I was out door knocking, a lot of people told me, 'I know you and I'll be voting for you.' That kind of response makes you feel good."

Miller said that when he asked constituents if they had questions about the city, a majority of them thought the council was doing a good job. "To me, that says the city is on the right track," he said.

Miller said the budget will continue to be a priority issue for the council. The challenge, he said, is how to achieve a low to reasonable levy while meeting the city's needs for infrastructure and safety.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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