Newcomer Williams first woman elected Moorhead mayorMOORHEAD – For Del Rae Williams, a last-second decision to run for mayor here has turned into a somewhat surprising success story.
By: Eric Burgess & Wendy Reuer, Forum News Service, INFORUM, Forum News Service
MOORHEAD – For Del Rae Williams, a last-second decision to run for mayor here has turned into a somewhat surprising success story.
Williams repeatedly said she only decided to run for the open mayoral seat the day before the filing deadline earlier this fall.
But on Tuesday, the 55-year-old who has never held public office became the first female mayor of Moorhead since the city was incorporated in 1881, according to City Manager Michael Redlinger.
Williams won the mayor’s seat with 37 percent of the vote, in complete but unofficial results, as voters seemed to split their vote between the two sitting city councilmen on the ballot.
Councilman Mike Hulett had 31 percent of the vote, Councilman Mark Hintermeyer, who vacated his 4th Ward seat to run for mayor, had 30 percent, and Kevin Shores had 1 percent.
It’s the first time in 12 years that Moorhead has elected a new mayor, after current Mayor Mark Voxland said he wouldn’t seek a fourth term.
With 5,689 total voters, the odd-year election reaped a 28 percent total turnout rate.
The city broke its tradition of voting in long-standing council members into the mayor’s seat Tuesday by electing Williams, who has never served on the council, with 2,081 votes.
Hulett, who has served two years as a 3rd Ward Councilman, had 1,771 votes, and Hintermeyer, who has served eight years on the council, had 1,703 votes. Shores had 78.
The neck-and-neck race for second place between Hulett and Hintermeyer was perhaps hinted at throughout the campaign trail by Hulett. He repeatedly pointed out at public debates that the mayoral candidates don’t seem to differ in their vision for the city.
Williams, though, often pointed out that she was different, that she is not a long-serving politician and would bring a fresh perspective to the council.
At a party celebrating her win Tuesday night, Williams said the fact that she is a woman may have swayed voters in both directions. Some said they voted for her simply because she was a woman while others urged her not to run because of her gender.
“I even have an email or two to prove that,” Williams said.
She said she hopes to enforce teamwork among the council, and will not endorse city council candidates in the future.
“If puts sort of a buffer between working together if you do that,” she said.
Williams has varied experience throughout the community. She is vice president of the League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley, treasurer for the Friends of Moorhead Library and has spent time volunteering at area homeless shelters. She also served on the Moorhead Human Rights Commission for six years.
Williams was born and raised in Minot, N.D., but has lived in Moorhead for the past 20 years. She has a daughter studying at MSUM and a son studying at Winona (Minn.) State University.
While residents and former and current council members such as Heidi Durand congratulated Williams with handshakes and hugs, the mayor-elect was looking ahead to her to-do list.
Williams said she would attend a media event today for the election, followed by a speaking engagement with the Moorhead Business Association. She said she hopes to speak with every business to start a list of the changes they hope to see in Moorhead.
“So it starts now,” Williams said.
Williams said Tuesday there are a number of initiatives she would like to incorporate once she takes office Jan. 1, including monthly get-togethers to discuss issues, called “coffee with the mayor.”
Hintermeyer, 58, is a retired Air Force Lt. Col. and will finish up his second four-year term as councilman from the city’s 4th Ward.
Hintermeyer, originally from Rock Falls, Wis., graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead in 1977 and then spent 22 years moving around the country as a missile launch officer during the Cold War. He’s lived in Moorhead with his wife Laurie, also a Concordia grad, for 20 years.
He had said that, win or lose, he would be out deer hunting on the family farm Tuesday. The Forum was unable to reach him as of press time.
Hulett, 69, is in the middle of his first term as councilman of the 3rd Ward, so keeps his seat on the council despite losing the mayoral bid.
Hulett worked as the city’s human resources director for 13 years, and also spent time working in human resources at Fargo Clinic and MeritCare after the merger.
Hulett is an Eau Claire, Wis., native and Navy veteran, having reached the rank of lieutenant. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1966 with a degree in economics and political science.
This is now the third unsuccessful bid at mayor for Shores. The disabled Navy veteran ran for mayor twice before, losing both in 2001 and 2005.
Shores is a St. Paul native and came to Moorhead in the late 90s to study Native American studies at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He has one son and three daughters, two of whom attend elementary school in Moorhead.
Moorhead’s mayor serves a 4-year term and earns $19,476 per year.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518