Changing of the guard: Sander in, Heisler out in City Commission race

Chuck Wickenhofer
Ben Sander took the most votes in Tuesday’s election and will replace four-term commissioner Tim Heisler on the Devils Lake City Commission. Sander came in first with over 35 percent of the vote. State’s attorneys Lonnie Olson and Jim Wang took the top two spots in the race for District I judge and will face off in November.

The results are in, and local businessman Ben Sander will replace veteran commissioner Tim Heisler on the City Commission after yesterday’s voting.

In fact, Sander received the most votes of all the candidates with 35 percent. Dale Robbins retains his seat after coming in second with 29 percent of the vote, while Heisler finished third and challenger Mark Motis finished fourth.

During his campaign, Sander stressed not only his experience in business and marketing as a qualification for a place on the commission, but his status as a young political outsider.

“I’d be drastically different,” Sander said in May. “The gentlemen that serve now are very well experienced in what they’re doing and where they’ve come from sitting on the commission for so long. I think I’d provide a little bit younger perspective, because I see things differently than they may have over time.”

Sander also questioned the direction of Forward Devils Lake while advocating for small businesses in the city.

“I’d just like to see a lot more done for smaller businesses, too,” Sander said. “Everybody loves to see that big fish out there wanting to come at your lure, but the big ones aren’t always what’s going to feed you. It may be nice to have them in your trophy case, but the little ones are going to be the good eating.”

Robbins had similar thoughts about how the organization functions in relation to the commission.

“I think we have to maybe retool,” Robbins said in May. “Forward Devils Lake does a good job, but a lot of the stuff that they do is given to the city to rubber stamp, basically. That’s maybe not a good thing.”

Robbins also shared Sander’s enthusiasm for the promotion of small business during the May interview.

“I’ve always said that (we should) try to build off of what we have already,” Robbins said. “Anything you can do locally to build your base, I think, is going to pay dividends more than throwing all your eggs in one basket and trying to hit the home run on one big thing. Every once in a while, you swing and you miss.”

In the race for District I judge, state’s attorneys Lonnie Olson and Jim Wang finished in the top two and will face off in November. Olson took first with 32 percent of the vote, with Wang finishing a close second with 29 percent. State’s attorney Ryan J. Thompson finished third, while Ramsey County Clerk Kari Agotness finished fourth.

Both Olson and Wang stressed their decades of legal experience in interviews last month.

“The law touches so many aspects of our lives,” Wang said. “I think I have the temperament, the integrity, and the experience that would serve any sitting judge well, and a good measure of common sense to go along with it.”

Olson also focused on his extensive trial experience to convince voters of his qualifications.

“When it comes to the trial work, I’ve got far more jury work and trial work than my opponents. I’ve had thousands of bench trials over the years,” Olson said.

In the County Commission race, write-in candidate Lucas Wakefield garnered enough votes to appear on the ballot in the general election. Jeff Frith led the vote tally at 28 percent, while current board president Myrna Heisler finished fourth behind former commissioner Scott Diseth and current commissioner Mark Olson.

In the uncontested races, Peter Halbach returns as Municipal Judge, while Jeff Frith and Cory Meyer return to the Devils Lake School Board.

Frith will serve another three year term, while Meyer will serve for one year. Peter Jerome and Lisa Uhlenkamp return to serve on the Park Board.