Bluestem doesn't usually post press releases, but this one comes from the campaign by a Facebook friend, Aaron Wittnebel, who was just elected as the mayor of Lake Park, MN, population 783 people, that's located on U.S. Highway 10 between Detroit Lakes and Moorhead.
Wittnebel made history by being the first openly gay man to be elected the mayor of a Minnesota city (update: Richard Carlbom was re-elected as Mayor of St. Joseph, but was not out when he was first elected to his office), and as a registered member of the Red Lake Nation (Ojibwe), he is the first mayor of mixed race heritage to serve Lake Park.
As a Facebook friend, he's mostly about good government. He'll make a great mayor.
Lake Park, MN – City Councilman, Aaron Lee Wittnebel (D) made history in this year's election for Mayor.
Wittnebel, 31, will become the youngest Mayor for the City of Lake Park when he takes office in January. But that's only part of the story, he will become Minnesota's first openly gay Mayor elected, and the second gay Mayor to serve in the state's history; and as an enrolled tribal member of the Red Lake Nation, he will also be the first mixed race Mayor for the City of Lake Park.
In 2010, Aaron was elected in a three-way race to a seat on the Lake Park City Council. While on the council, Aaron has made efforts to modernize the city government and reduce risk. He has aimed to keep utility rates low and affordable, sometimes putting him at odds with the current Mayor. Aaron has supported more activities for youth and seniors within the city, such as pushing for a branch of the DLCCC to open in Lake Park and by support for funding of the city's Senior Nutrition program. Aaron has put forward efforts for the city government to be more responsive and proactive, including a push for more long term planning. He also, acquired grant funding for landscaping and beautification along U.S. Highway 10 from MnDOT to take place in 2013.
As the next Mayor, Aaron looks forward continuing the work he began when he was elected to the City Council in 2010, to keep the city moving forward. Aaron will work with the City Council, reviewing and strengthening the current model for the city's Economic Development Authority, in effort to attract more businesses and job creators to Lake Park. He will push to redevelop our downtown area, by applying for existing programs to help local businesses survive, and make it more attractive for newcomers. Aaron will also work to obtain for federal and state habitat restoration funding to restore historic Lake Flora as a focal point of our city, and he will advocate for getting the city's portion of the Heartland Trail back into state's next bonding bill.
Aaron was the only candidate listed on this year's ballot for Mayor, after his two opponents dropped out before the filing deadline in August. One prior to Election Day the current Mayor, Keith Zachariason rescinded his plans for retirement, and mounted a last minute write-in campaign to retain his position. Zachariason, a fellow Democrat, garnered the support of a small group of conservative catholics supportive of this year's Marriage Amendment, of which Aaron and many Lake Park residents were opposed.
Election Results Certified and Special Ceremony Announced
Last Monday, the City of Lake Park certified the election results for the Office of Mayor showing 67% of the votes being cast for Aaron Lee Wittnebel. Amy Degerstrom and Jon Anderson will join the city council as new members, making it one of the youngest councils since the city’s incorporation back in 1881. Once sworn in as Mayor, one of the first orders of business will be for Aaron to appoint a new Member to the City Council to fill the remaining two years of his current term.
On Saturday, January 12th in the afternoon at the Lake Park City Center, Mayor-elect Wittnebel will be sworn in as the new Mayor along with new members of the Lake Park City Council during a special ceremony followed by an open house for the public. This will be a change from previous years, where new officials were sworn in prior to the first regular city council meeting in January following the election. Mayor-elect Wittnebel feels that this will allow city residents, along with family and friends, the opportunity to meet with the newly elected members of the Lake Park City Council and to honor the outgoing members, in event more suitable then from the gallery during a city council meeting. Details are still being coordinated for the Open House, and a press release will be sent out closer to the event date.
Aaron spent Election Day morning being amongst the first to vote in Lake Park when polls opened at 7:00 AM, along with close family and neighbors by his side. Prior to voting, Aaron stated to supporters during his campaign's morning coffee meet up, "We set a goal back in July to make a positive campaign to move forward, and help continue making our beautiful city all the more better, not just in the now, but for the future. With the Election today, we will see if we will be able to keeping moving forward with this goal."
Afterwards, he spent the morning attending the funeral of his great Uncle, Retired Air Force Master Sergeant Russell C. Rudolph in Fargo, ND. The he spent Election Day afternoon making last minute calls to help Get Out the Vote for his campaign, along with other area campaigns for public office. He then attended a supper with close relatives at the home of his mother, Paula Kay Wittnebel prior to polls closing.
As the Becker County DFL's Chairman, Aaron co-hosted the Becker County Democrat's Election Night Viewing Party, along with Amy Degerstrom, a candidate for Lake Park City Council in Lake Park to watch election results with close friends, neighbors, and fellow Democrats. At around 9:00 PM, one hour following the closing of the polls in Lake Park, word came in that Aaron had been elected the next Mayor with initial tallies showing Councilman Wittnebel winning by a large margin.