Decorah candidates hold forum on local issues

Local+candidates+Decorah+Public+Library+Lorraine+Borowski+%28%E2%80%9870%29%2C+current+Mayor+Pro-Tempore+At-Large+City+Councilman%0AGary+Rustad+Ross+Hadley+%28%E2%80%9895%29%2C+Brett+Robinson+Johanna+Bergan+%28%E2%80%9809%29+Shirley+Vermace+Randy+Schissel+and+Cindy+Albers+Jeff%0ATomlinson+answer+questions+during+the+forum+held+on+Oct.+5.+
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Decorah candidates hold forum on local issues

Local candidates Decorah Public Library Lorraine Borowski (‘70), current Mayor Pro-Tempore At-Large City Councilman
Gary Rustad Ross Hadley (‘95), Brett Robinson Johanna Bergan (‘09) Shirley Vermace Randy Schissel and Cindy Albers Jeff
Tomlinson answer questions during the forum held on Oct. 5.

Local candidates Decorah Public Library Lorraine Borowski (‘70), current Mayor Pro-Tempore At-Large City Councilman Gary Rustad Ross Hadley (‘95), Brett Robinson Johanna Bergan (‘09) Shirley Vermace Randy Schissel and Cindy Albers Jeff Tomlinson answer questions during the forum held on Oct. 5.

Local candidates Decorah Public Library Lorraine Borowski (‘70), current Mayor Pro-Tempore At-Large City Councilman Gary Rustad Ross Hadley (‘95), Brett Robinson Johanna Bergan (‘09) Shirley Vermace Randy Schissel and Cindy Albers Jeff Tomlinson answer questions during the forum held on Oct. 5.

Local candidates Decorah Public Library Lorraine Borowski (‘70), current Mayor Pro-Tempore At-Large City Councilman Gary Rustad Ross Hadley (‘95), Brett Robinson Johanna Bergan (‘09) Shirley Vermace Randy Schissel and Cindy Albers Jeff Tomlinson answer questions during the forum held on Oct. 5.

Karl Nycklemoe, Staff Writer

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Seven local candidates for Decorah public office held an open forum to answer questions related to local issues from the Decorah community on Thursday, Oct. 5th.

The forum was sponsored by the Decorah chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the Luther College Political Science Department, and the Luther College Social Work Department.

The forum included the two mayoral candidates: former director of the Decorah Public Library Lorraine Borowski (‘70) and current Mayor Pro-Tempore and At-Large City Councilman Gary Rustad.

The At-Large City Council seat candidates were Luther alum and Amundson’s Clothing owner Ross Hadley (‘95), Fareway meat manager Brett Robinson, Ward 5 incumbent Chuck Lore, Ward 5 candidate Johanna Bergan (‘09), and Parks and Recreation Board incumbent Shirley Vermace. Not attending the forum were ward 1 incumbent Randy Schissel, Ward 3 incumbent Andy Carlson, Parks and Recreation Board incumbent Cindy Albers, and Parks and Recreation Board candidate Jeff Tomlinson.

The questions asked in the forum ranged from topics such as the Decorah deer population to affordable housing to historical preservation to the possibility of a town recreation center. One issue that arose several times that night was the possibility of a new Menards in Decorah and anxieties about its impact on local businesses and jobs as well as its potential effect on the environment. Community member and moderator of the forum Carol Hagan believes that the ability to ask candidates these questions is important in deciding which candidate to support.

“You can read about a candidate online, in a newspaper, a flyer, or materials that they publish,” Hagan said. “But when it’s a community forum like this — where they don’t know what they will be asked — they have to respond spontaneously. You can get the big picture of who that [candidate] is and how they conduct themselves in a setting like this.”

Karl Nycklemoe (‘18) | Chips
Ward 5 candidate Johanna Bergen (’08) and Recreation incumbent Shirley Vermace answer
questions from the attendees.

Luther College currently lies on the border of Decorah’s Ward 4 and Ward 5. Ward 5 Luther students live in the Brandt, Larsen, and Olson residence halls, Baker Village, and the off-campus houses on Center Street. Ward 4 residents live in the Farwell, Miller, Dieseth, and Ylvisaker Residence Halls.

This year, all Luther students who live on campus, if registered to vote in Decorah, can vote for the mayoral office, the at-large city council seat, and the parks and recreation board. Associate Professor of Political Science Carly Foster, an organizer of the forum, believes that voting and being informed on the candidates is important to the election process.

“You don’t want to make an uninformed decision,” Foster said. “These people will be in positions of authority, and they will be making the rules that we all live under. More information is always better, so we should learn about [the candidates] before we make decisions about who should be in these positions of power.”

Foster, a member of the AAUW and Political Science Department, notes that the AAUW intentionally co-sponsors the event with non-partisan entities.

“Decorah City Council elections are non-partisan,” Foster said. “Officially speaking, [the candidates] are not running as Republicans or Democrats. If you know the personalities there are obvious alignments, but they are not running as partisan.”

Adam Morgan (’18) attended the forum both out of curiosity and for his social work senior seminar. According to Morgan, these forums are important to both those who attend and the candidates themselves.

“I learned a lot about every single person there, and [the forum] gave me a base to build off as far as who I am more interested in voting for,” Morgan said. “I think it also helped the candidates get a good feel of the population with who showed up and who they need to gear their campaign towards.”

The election will take place on Nov. 7. Students can register to vote by visiting the Decorah Courthouse.

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