Butala elected Wrenshall mayor
The former mayor defeated the incumbent, Donna Mae Weiderman.
Former Wrenshall Mayor Gary Butala will have a third crack at the job after defeating incumbent Donna Mae Weiderman in the election Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Butala was elected to serve a two-year term as Wrenshall mayor in 2014 and 2016, but lost his reelection bid to Weiderman in 2018. In 2018, Weiderman beat Butala by 11 percentage points. Butala flipped the result in 2020 picking up 144 of 266 votes.
“I ran again because I had some stuff I just wanted to see keep going,” Butala said. “I had some resident come up and ask me if I would run and I said, ‘Sure.' I want to see Wrenshall prosper.”
Weiderman had hoped some road construction projects would offset the pain of a large tax increase in Wrenshall in 2020. The city’s share of the property tax levy rose approximately 33% this year after the city completed a study that showed the levy was 47% lower than other similarly sized cities in the area.
Weiderman believed the increase would put Wrenshall on the path to financial stability. The council approved a capital improvement plan for projects going forward and completed two road projects in the city with a third planned for 2021 under Weiderman’s leadership.
“The hefty tax increase is something I was not real happy with, and I know a lot of the residents weren’t either, because there are a lot of retired people here,” Butala said. “But the comprehensive plan, I was happy with that because there are some things that (Weiderman) started that I want to keep the going with ... I agree the capital improvement plan is a big thing that is needed. If we want to draw people in, we have to get some things fixed with our infrastructure.”
Weiderman was disappointed with the result and had hoped to continue the work she started, but acknowledged the community was looking for a different direction.
“I’m OK with it,” Weiderman said in a statement to the Pine Journal. “I thought I was giving the community what they wanted and deserved. Our community has spoken and said they want something different. I know that I ran an honest campaign based on facts and not opinions. I chose not to go door-to-door during this global pandemic out of respect for all our community. When I turn over my title, I will know that I served my community to my best ability and can hold my head up knowing that I have been a truthful and humble servant.”
In the only other contested race for the Wrenshall City Council, Joyce Gvesrude held a slight edge over Kevin House in a special election for an at-large seat. Gvesrude led House 116-114 with two write-in votes cast.
Current City Councilors Jody Mattinen and Melvin Martindale did not face opposition in retaining their seats.
Bergman, Kloepfer, Krisak elected to Wrenshall School Board
The Wrenshall School Board will have three new faces when it convenes in January.
Misty Bergman, Alice Kloepfer and Nicole Krisak were elected to the board in a tight race. Bergman received 652 votes, Kloepfer 635 and Krisak had 572 in a race where no candidate received more than 27.2% of the vote share. Karola Dalen received 480 votes and was not elected to the board.
Bergman, who works for U.S. Bank in Cloquet, thanked her supporters and said her first priority was to get students back in school. Most Wrenshall students have been in a distance learning model since September, but are scheduled to move to a hybrid model Monday, Nov. 9.
“The main thing for me is to try to get the kids back in school, obviously safely,” Bergman said. “The hybrid learning is going to help, but just getting the kids back and getting them some normalcy ... that’s really important for their mental well-being.”
Bergman and Krisak both said they would like to continue working toward a consolidation agreement with the Carlton School District. The boards have negotiated for over a year to hammer out an agreement and a facilities plan. The potential consolidation was likely delayed until 2022 after needed legislation to fund the facilities plan was not included in the bonding bill passed by the Minnesota Legislature last month.
The Pine Journal was unable to reach Gvesrude, Kloepfer or Krisak for comment.
This story was updated at 10:15 a.m. Nov. 5 with a photo of Gary Butala. It was originally posted at 10:57 a.m. Nov. 4.