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Signs of the season

A sign in the local laundromat supports Raymond "Ole" Mounts for Ottertail mayor.1 / 3
This sign supporting Heather Pollard for Ottertail City Council is located in front of the St. Paul House on Highway 108.2 / 3
Placed on Highway 108, this sign shows support for council candidate Jeff Spanswick.3 / 3

McCain. Obama. A Coleman sign here or there. It's expected in the weeks leading up to a tight election year.

Far less common, at least in a town boasting a population of just 451, is a city council campaign that rivals its national counterpart--in the form of postcards, websites, yard signs, and even businesses taking a stand to support their favored candidate.

Don Patrick, Jeff Spanswick, Heather Pollard, and Mike Windey are the names behind this year's stiff run for the Ottertail City Council. With just two seats open on the council, the four are actively campaigning for their opportunity to serve the growing lake community.

Although less visible from a campaigning perspective, Ottertail is also home to a competitive race for mayor this year. Running for mayor alongside current Ottertail Mayor Raymond "Ole" Mounts is current city council member Terry Wagenman.

Although the race for the city government vacancies is creating more tension than normal in the quiet town, most citizens see it as a good sign that there are so many people interested in serving their city.

"In small cities, sometimes you can't get enough people to fill a ballot," said Ottertail city clerk Linda Bjelland, who has years of experience working with small cities.

It's not that unusual for cities to have only one person running for a position, and sometimes even fewer. Many local elections have been forced to rely on write-in candidates to determine who their next city officials will be.

"It's going to be a heavy turnout," Bjelland predicted of this year's election, adding how the highly publicized presidential election is sure to help motivate people to hit the polls on?November 4.

To date, both Mike Windey and Heather Pollard have mailed out postcards elaborating on their vision for the future of Ottertail. Candidates Spanswick and Pollard have posted campaign signs throughout the city. These signs have even been set up at a few local businesses where owners have chosen to exercise their right to support a candidate for the local council.

City council hopeful Mike Windey has even created his own website at

In order to file for the city positions, candidates were each required to sign an affidavit of candidacy and pay the $2 fee set by the state.

The affidavit requires, among other things, that candidates: Be eligible to vote in Minnesota; be, or will be on assuming office, 21 years of age or older; have not filed for the same or any other office at the upcoming primary or general election; and have maintained residence in that district for at least 30 days before the general election.

According to Bjelland, when it comes time for the election, the ballot will list the names of the candidates in an order that was selected at random. Cities are not permitted to list who the incumbents are on a local election.

One unique challenge Ottertail's election judges will face this year is that the city will have two different ballots.

Depending on where individuals live within the city, they will either be voting on the Henning School Board candidates, or for Perham-Dent School Board candidates. This year's ballot with the Perham-Dent district will be especially critical as it contains the proposed levy referendum question.

Those interested in previewing the ballot they will receive at the Nov. 4 election should visit:

This non-partisan election information site allows visitors to type in their zip code, select the street they live on, and view a sample of the ballot they will be handed on election day. Polling locations are also provided on the website.


Candidate spending limits

When candidates file for either mayor or city council positions, they must sign a campaign financial report certification of filing.

They must either affirm that campaign contributions or disbursements did not exceed $750 in the calendar year, or affirm that all required campaign financial reports have been submitted to the filing officer.

Minnesota law dictates that candidates who spend over $750 must submit a report which includes the amount, date, and purpose of each expenditure.

A candidate who fails to file a report required by the state is guilty of a misdemeanor.