The election of a mayor to the Hennepin County Board marked the first-ever female majority on the board, while a contentious race in one Lake Minnetonka city led to unseating of the current mayor.
Hennepin County Board
For the first time, the Hennepin County Board will have a majority of women after Richfield Mayor Debbie Goettel won the race to succeed Randy Johnson on the seven-member body. She will take Johnson’s seat for the Fifth District, which includes Bloomington, Richfield, south Eden Prairie and part of Chanhassen, beating out Bloomington Chamber of Commerce President Maureen Scallen Failor for the seat.
While the job is nonpartisan, Scallen Failor had Republican Party support, while Goettel was endorsed by the Hennepin County DFL.
Johnson, the longest-serving member of the board, is retiring after 38 years. Three other seats were up for election, and incumbents Mike Opat, Jan Callison and Jeff Johnson retained them. The County Board is one of the most coveted of local government spots; commissioners typically get less scrutiny than city or state policymakers and get more than $108,000 a year. They oversee a budget of $1.9 billion — second only to the state’s.
The race in the Lake Minnetonka city of Orono became a hotly contested one and led to the unseating of Mayor Lili McMillan by City Council member Dennis Walsh. Walsh, who was elected in 2014, pushed for more transparency. McMillan, the mayor since 2011, has been involved with the city since 1992.
In all, eight people vied for mayor and two council spots — the highest number for Orono in at least 25 years. Growing division on the five-member council has sparked shouting matches and even a walkout by one council member.
Then the state Office of Administrative Hearings received two complaints over disclosure information lacking on campaign literature — one from a series of anonymous fliers criticizing McMillan and some of the incumbents, and a second from a website targeting Walsh. The Orono School District also had to apologize after sharing, then deleting, one of Walsh’s campaign posts.