The last time Rosemount residents went to the polls to choose two new council members, they saw a list of 26 candidates on the ballot.

That's not going to happen again.

The City Council, in preparation for this fall's election, approved an ordinance this month that will allow the city to hold a primary if the candidates outnumber available seats by more than a 2-1 ratio.

"It's wise to do that in case we have a lot of candidates in the future," Mayor Bill Droste said, citing the 2008 candidate roster and the city's recent growth.

Droste's is one of the seats up for election this fall, though he said he hasn't decided whether he'll seek a third term. The City Council seats held by Kim Shoe-Corrigan and Mark DeBettignies also are up for election this fall.

The city will hold a primary if more than two people file for mayor or if more than four people file for the two council seats. Two candidates for mayor and four candidates for city council would be advanced by voters to the general election in November.

The date of the primary and the filing period for candidates are uncertain because the Legislature is eyeing changes to the election calendar. Current law calls for filings in July with a primary in September, but bills being considered by the Legislature would push filings back to June and have the primary in August.

Dwight Johnson, the Rosemount city administrator, said the primary won't cost the city any extra money because it will be piggybacking on the primary ballots of the state and national elections. Unlike the state and national elections, the local primaries are nonpartisan.

About one-quarter of the more than 800 cities represented by the League of Minnesota Cities have ordinances allowing them to hold primaries if needed.

In Dakota County, primaries can be held for county offices. Burnsville, Eagan, Hastings, Inver Grove Heights, South St. Paul and West St. Paul can also call primaries.

But that doesn't always happen.

Eagan spokesman Tom Garrison said the city held a primary in 2006, when four people filed for mayor and eight people ran for two city council seats. But there was no need for a primary in Eagan in 2008.

"It all depends on the number of people who file," Garrison said.

Johnson said the primary will help simplify the ballot on election day if the Rosemount again attracts dozens of candidates. All 26 names fit on a one-page ballot in 2008, but that wouldn't necessarily be the case in the future.

"That raised the possibility that we would have a second sheet for the ballot. Then we started imagining all the things that could go wrong with that," Johnson said.

But Droste said he doesn't expect a deluge of candidates for city office this year.

Most of the candidates who jumped into the 2008 race did so after receiving a newsletter urging them to file and touting a $6,000 annual salary. "I think some probably thought, hey, this is a good part-time job," Droste said.

The election also came on the heels of heated debate about the use of eminent domain to make way for city-led downtown redevelopment.

Many of the candidates filed at the last minute and did little or nothing to campaign.

Current Council Members Jeff Weisensel and Kurt Bills garnered the most votes and were clear winners.

Katie Humphrey • 952-882-9056