Brainerd City Council is mixing in some new blood following Tuesday’s election, with Chip Borkenhagen taking an at-large seat alongside current council president, Mary Koep, who was re-elected to the second open at-large seat.
Leading the at-large contest out of a total of seven candidates throughout most of the night, Borkenhagen brought in 25.87 percent of the votes, tallying 2,336.
“I’m glad the results were as clear as they were,” said Borkenhagen, who will be serving his first time as an elected city official. “It obviously feels good that there are many people out there who think that I can make a difference.”
Borkenhagen said he is now ready to turn his focus and attention to advance the city of Brainerd.
“Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves as a community and go to work,” said the 65-year-old who was named the 2008 Citizen of the Year. “We haven’t taken advantage of all the opportunities that exist here...What happens in Brainerd affects all of lake country, and that’s why we need to focus on our core, here in Brainerd, and in my mind downtown Brainerd.”
Borkenhagen was the founder and publisher of the Lake Country Journal and was also involved in design, photography and writing. Other business experience includes time with Studio 2, Borkenhagen/Russell & Herder, Evergreen Press/Lake Country Journal and Riverplace Communication Arts/Riverplace Press. He has also worked for Universal Pensions/Printing, Bang Printing and Central Lakes College. He is currently working on a book of the history of the lake country with his wife of 32 years, Jean.
Borkenhagen said he is excited to start his role and listen to the concerns of all the citizens, adding he wants to open the communication between council members and all of the community.
“I want to listen and work together with the entire community, especially the young people,” he said. “They are the ones inheriting our community so why not design the community through the eyes of them.
“It’s now time for all of us to work together to bring our home to where it needs to be.”
Nothing new for her but sharing equal excitement, Koep said she is very grateful for the confidence and trust that the citizens of Brainerd have given her once again.
Re-elected to an at-large seat with 1,792 votes, Koep has served in one of the three at-large seats since 2003. She stepped away from council in 2006 but returned to an at-large seat in 2008 and previously served 16 years on the Crow Wing County Board from 1980-1996 and before that 10 years from 1970-1980 on the city council.
“It’s a humbling experience when you realize people continue to count on you,” she said. “It goes to show that you must be doing something that works and it makes you want to work twice as hard and I intend to go back there and work my heart out.
Koep said she was also grateful for the amount of new people interested in a seat with council, adding that she hopes their interest doesn’t wain having not been elected to a seat this time. She also said she is as excited as the city to have some fresh new faces and excitement on the council.
And though it’s not a new feeling, Koep said she can’t help but get as excited as the first time she was elected to council.
“My heart and soul are with this city,” she said. “We’re (council) going to do a good job and I will do anything to keep this city moving and make it a place where people are excited to live.”
At-large candidate and incumbent Bob Olson brought in 1,374 of the votes. Olson, 85, served as a council member in the 1970s; was mayor from 1989-1990 and then was elected to four-year terms to the council in 2000, 2004 and 2008. He could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.
Candidates Denny Schmidt had 1,116 of the votes, Laura Bisted had 1,072 votes, Michael Bollinger had 821 votes, David Colvin had 457 votes and there were 62 write-in votes.
It was a tight race in Ward 1 as Sue Hilgart narrowly trailed Dave Pritschet throughout most of the evening and in the end it was Pritschet who earned the open seat.
A teacher at Forestview Middle School, Pritschet garnered 34.20 percent of the votes — 487 votes — to Hilgart’s 32.44 percent, 462 votes.
“It always comes as a surprise; you really can’t take anything for granted,” said Pritschet of winning the Ward 1 seat. “It was a tough decision for people. There were a lot of quality candidates to choose from and I just want to thank everyone that voted, not just for me but in general.”
At Forestview, Pritschet is a debate, speech and Knowledge Bowl coach. He was a 2006 recipient of the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Recognition Award and the 2012 Brainerd Teacher of Year.
The 46-year-old said he is ready to take his first step into being an elected city official and is planning to attend as many council meetings as he can before his term begins.
“There’s going to be a little bit of a learning curve but I am ready to jump in and am very excited about this opportunity,” he said.
Other Ward 1 votes went to: Amanda Monnier, 178 votes, Joseph Morgan, 121 votes, Daniel Egan, 106 votes, Rob Garberich, 67 votes and there were three write-ins.
The first words to come out of Gary Scheeler’s mouth after being announced the winning candidate for the open seat in Ward 3: “I’m back!”
Serving on the council from 1998-2004, Scheeler said he is excited to be back serving his community.
Jeff Czeczok took an early lead in the polls Tuesday but Scheeler soon surpassed, notching 540 votes to win the seat. Czeczok brought in 448.
“I want to say hats off to all of the candidates,” said Scheeler. “Jeff (Czeczok) actually called and congratulated me and had some very kind words to say and I greatly appreciate that.
“My campaign promise was to make living in Brainerd better and I am planning on doing just that while bringing positive energy and growth to all of the city council meetings.”
A business owner for 35 years, Scheeler has owned a business since 1999 in Brainerd. He is the owner of Brainerd Country Power, a lawn and garden center.
Scheeler said he can’t wait to get to work and is equally as excited to join the others who won their races Tuesday evening.
“We (the council) are going to make Brainerd a much better place, together,” he said.
Ward 3 candidates John Magnuson took in 226 votes, Howard Brewer brought in 48 votes.