Elections in small North Dakota towns are a little bit different than the norm

Local News

The primary election is finally over and candidates are starting to fill their elected positions. But the way elections work in some small North Dakota towns is a little bit different than the norm. Here’s more about the process.

Election season in small towns like Sawyer aren’t as contentious as they can be in bigger cities. In fact, some positions have no names on the ballot, and jobs like mayor all come down to whose name you decide to write-in.

“For the mayor position, we had 16 different people that received votes, and there was a four-way tie for the top,” said Susan Schmidt, Auditor, Sawyer.

One of those candidates is the current mayor, Dennis Redding. But he withdrew his name from the selection. 

“Well, after 28 years, I think that’s long enough. The last time that I was written in, four years ago, I got enough votes, and I had enough then,” Redding said.

When Redding was first elected, like many other people who fill the position, he had no experience. 

But, that isn’t unusual. 

“That happens quite often. Unfortunately, it’s the way it is, but our other council members help them out. The staff helps them out and they soon get up to speed,” Schmidt said.

Most of the job entails attending the meetings held the first Monday of every month and they get paid $35 for every meeting they attend. 

“They’re not in it for the money. They are not even in it for the glory. They are in it to try and make the community better for everyone. It’s a hard job, but some people are willing to step up and help their fellow citizens,” Schmidt said.

Redding has some advice for the incoming Mayor Brian Reamann.

“He’s going to get a lot of different complaints. Some of them you have to take serious, some of them you have to take with a grain of salt. You can’t solve everybody’s problems and a lot of the problems, I learned a long time ago, you just let things go and they solve themselves,” Redding said.

Reamann couldn’t be reached for comment, but Schmidt and Redding both say if you don’t like what decisions are being made, to get involved, because everyone has to work together. 

If a written-in candidate does not want to be mayor, council either appoints someone or can call a special election.

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