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Zeithamer, Reilly, Knudsen comment on their wins for Alexandria School Board

Alan Zeithamer has served on the board since 1983, while Shawn Reilly and Laura Knudsen are newcomers.

School board winners.jpg
Alan Zeithamer, Shawn Reilly and Laura Knudsen
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ALEXANDRIA — Shawn Reilly is thankful to have been able to work with Alan Zeithamer and Sandy Susag on the election for Alexandria School Board.

Reilly was running against Lynne Lommen for position 3, while Zeithamer and Susag, both incumbents, were going for seats 2 and 4, respectively.

The seats on the school board are four-year terms that run from Jan. 1, 2023, through Dec. 31, 2026.

Reilly, a newcomer to the school board race, won the election against his opponent, by a vote of 7,515 (52.95%) to 6,640 (46.78%). Lommen, also a newcomer, and Reilly vied for the seat currently held by Dean Anderson. Anderson did not re-file for election after serving the district for more than 30 years.

“Sandy and Alan were great mentors to work with,” said Reilly. “I’m sad for Sandy and disappointed about that race.”

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Susag lost a very close race against Laura Knudsen. Only 85 votes separated the two – Knudsen received 7,129 (50.15%) and Susag received 7,044 votes (49.55%).

Vicki Doehling, Douglas County auditor/treasurer who also serves as the elections administrator, said she did some research on Minnesota Recount Rules regarding local school district races. She said the race certainly was close, but not close enough to qualify for a publicly funded recount.

“To summarize, at the local county, school or municipality level, there are no ‘automatic’ recounts,” Doehling said in an email to the newspaper. “At the local level, a losing candidate must actually request a recount and the margin of loss is what determines who pays for it.”

Reilly said Susag was a champion for the district and that he hopes to carry on what she did. He also said he is “super excited” to have been afforded the opportunity to represent the Alexandria School District.

He said while door-knocking throughout his campaign, he had great conversations with voters and that it “fired him up.”

After going out a dozen or so times, Reilly said he felt strong, but still didn’t know what to expect when it came to the results of the election.

“I had lots of conversations and after each night, I felt charged up,” he said. “But I really didn’t know what to expect. I wished for the best. And there was clearly a difference in the approach to the election. I want to celebrate the schools, the teachers, the staff and the students. I am proud of my campaign.”

He again said how much he enjoyed working with Susag and Zeithamer and that they were very helpful.

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“It’s been a great journey so far and I am really stoked about moving forward,” he said. “I will do my best to represent the school, staff, teachers and the students.”

Zeithamer said he was very grateful for all the support he has received and that it was overwhelming to know that people appreciate what he’s been doing.

Moving forward, he plans to continue being thoughtful and considerate in making decisions to meet the needs of families within the district.

He also said that expected the contest to be closer – Zeithamer beat out his opponent, newcomer Vern Engstrom, by a vote of 7,987 (56.77%) to 6,041 (42.94%).

“The results exceeded my expectations,” he said.

Knudsen said she feels grateful the community has given her the opportunity to work for the students and families in the district.

“As a board member, I want to improve the quality of education our district provides, create healthier environments in our schools, which includes stopping bullying in every aspect of school life, and protect parents rights in part by increasing transparency,” Knudsen said.

As for next steps, she said for her it includes a great deal of learning and relationship building.

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“What I look most forward to is seeing the positive impact we can make for our students with new voices and perspectives on the board,” said Knudsen.

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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