Dakota County ballots taking shape for November elections

  • Article by: KATIE HUMPHREY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 15, 2012 - 10:09 PM

Primary elections and filing deadlines have clarified races for city and county offices this fall.

The November ballot is taking shape for city and county elections across Dakota County.

Between the primary election in some places and the filing deadline in others, the names that will go before voters this fall became clearer Aug. 14.

There will be plenty of incumbents aiming to hold onto their local offices -- many were the top vote-getters in the primaries -- but a variety of races are wide open because of retirements by longtime officials.

In southern Dakota County, Mike Slavik of Hastings and Christy Jo Fogarty of Farmington bested a field of five candidates vying for the District 1 seat on the Dakota County Board.

Joe Harris, who has held that office for more than 30 years, is retiring.

Both Slavik and Fogarty are city council members in their home cities, but they note the differences in their personal background.

Fogarty, a dental therapist, touts her work in the health industry along with her government service with cities, township and state boards.

"My length of experience and depth of experience and my broad experience in the townships sets me apart," she said.

Slavik, meanwhile, points to his career in small businesses, in real estate and owning a laundromat in southern Minnesota as a complement to his work in city government.

Both pledged to criss-cross the sprawling, mostly rural district to connect with residents before November.

"It's really about introducing yourself and letting the residents of the district see who you are and see if you are fit for the position," Slavik said.

Incumbent Liz Workman and challenger Dave Giles, both of Burnsville, advanced through the other county board race that drew enough candidates to trigger a primary election.

In Burnsville city races, voters will see a rematch between longtime Mayor Elizabeth Kautz and Jerry Willenburg, who challenged her and lost by about 2,400 votes in 2008. In this month's primary, she garnered 1,676 votes to his 1,470.

Kautz, serving her sixth term as mayor, said that she has been diligently working to move the city forward and that she stands by her record.

"We've done great things here in this city and are looking to continue," she said.

She said resident surveys commissioned by the city have shown most people and local businesses to be satisfied with the way things are run.

The only incumbent running for a city council seat this fall -- Mary Sherry -- had the most votes in a primary contest that included eight candidates. Kautz took that as yet another sign that residents think the city is on track.

And she's convinced controversy over the construction of the Burnsville Performing Arts Center has subsided.

"You don't hear about it," she said, adding that reporters and Willenburg are the only ones that bring it up. "It's the only thing Jerry is running on."

Willenburg disagrees that voters have moved on. He said he continues to hear from residents about the Burnsville Performing Arts Center as he campaigns, even if they're not showing up at city council meetings.

"When people no longer have hope that you're going to do something about it, they stop complaining," Willenburg said.

If elected, he said, instituting term limits would also be one of his top priorities, partly because Kautz has served for so long.

"Elizabeth has more money, more signs, has been in office 18 years and is better connected than I am," he said, labeling himself an underdog. "She should've squashed me in this primary, but she didn't."

In cities without primaries, candidate filings yielded challenges to incumbent mayors in both Farmington and Lakeville.

In Farmington, Mayor Todd Larson faces challenges from former City Council Member David Pritzlaff and Jerry Wear.

And in an unusual twist, Lakeville Mayor Mark Bellows will run against not one but two current council members in his bid for re-election.

Council Members Matt Little and Laurie Rieb both filed paperwork to run for mayor.

Katie Humphrey • 952-746-3286

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