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News from around the state

Brainerd set to name new mayor

Six candidates, all men, have put their names forward to become the next mayor of Brainerd. The Crow Wing County city of 13,500 has been without an elected leader since Mayor James Wallin, 73, died suddenly in September. Wallin, a longtime resident of the area, was named Brainerd Citizen of the Year just weeks before his death.  

The City Council plans to give each candidate up to 20 minutes to speak at their Nov. 30 meeting, said council president Gary Scheeler. The candidates include a realtor, the city's former fire chief, a retired state representative and a local business owner, among others.

The council may appoint someone to the mayor's position immediately after hearing from the candidates, said Scheeler. Otherwise they will wait until the council's Dec. 7th meeting. Wallin's death means the council's appiontment will only serve until the next general election, in 2016, when voters will elect someone to serve out the remaining two years of Wallin's term. 

This is the second death in office in two years for Brainerd public officials. City Council president and former mayor Bonnie Cumberland, 67, died in February of last year. She was found dead in her home when she missed the start of a regularly scheduled council meeting. 

Brainerd has a weak-mayor form of government, with the mayor's vote counting only in those instances when the City Council deadlocks in a tie. 

Local Christmas light show to take national stage

Each year, a colossal Christmas light display in Willmar, Minn., draws thousands of people from around the area. Soon, it will be seen by folks across the country.

Chad Koosman's bouncing stars, reindeer and spinning, 40-foot trees will be featured on the coming season of ABC's reality show, "The Great Christmas Light Fight." A crew from the show recently spent several days at the Koosman house, according to the Salvation Army.

We wrote about Koosman's display last year. Here's an excerpt from that story:

It all started with Koosman’s simple resolve to be a better bell ringer.

Six years ago, Koosman started ringing for the Salvation Army and quickly began battling the top donation-getter in town. “I couldn’t catch this guy,” Koosman said. “I’d ring for four hours, he’d ring for six. If I’d do five, he’d do nine.”

Koosman later asked to put a kettle at his house at 3903 60th Av. NE, where his display had reached 100,000 bulbs. A photo from that time shows lights lining his roof, a dozen trees and the words “Merry Christmas.” It bears little resemblance to the blinking, bopping spectacle of today.

The Koosmans will compete with three other displays to win a $50,000 prize.

But before he turns on the lights this year, Koosman has another number in mind: $2,000. That's how much he wants to raise before flipping the switch, the Salvation Army says. According to a news release:

To kickoff fundraising efforts, Koosman has a stunt up his sleeve.

“I’m not going to turn the lights on until we raise $2,000 for The Salvation Army,” smiled Koosman. “I’m not trying to be a scrooge or anything, I know we can do it. But I want to have a little fun with it too. ”

Chad and Angela Koosman, with their daughter, Sophia.

Chad and Angela Koosman, with their daughter, Sophia.