Meet the Candidates: Six in the running to be the next Mayor of Bemidji

Featured photo, from left: Jorge Prince, Michael Meehlhause, Ivan Smith, John Henningsgaard, Robert Elliot and Mark Thorson. Graphic courtesy of Eric Callagan.

As current Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht is running as the DFL-endorsed candidate for Minnesota Senate District 5, the mayoral race has no incumbent. Six are competing to become the city’s next mayor.


Robert Elliot is an area realtor and longtime Bemidji resident. Elliot has been active with various community events, church groups, parent-teacher organizations. This is Elliot’s first campaign, and he says he is running to help create a better Bemidji, and wants to be a voice for all voters and citizens of Bemidji.


John Henningsgaard has been in the area for about 20 years, and was an educator with the Laporte School District. Henningsgaard has been involved with the Bemidji Community Theater, Headwaters Music and Arts, and volunteers with KAXE. Henningsgaard is another political newcomer, and says he was raised around the values of public service.


Michael Meehlhause has made Bemidji his home since graduating from Bemidji State University, and has served on the council as the Ward 1 representative for the last eight years. Meehlhause says the job of a mayor is to be Bemidji’s biggest cheerleader, set the tone of the council and community discussions, and to bring the council to work together as a team.


Jorge Prince has been in the Bemidji area just about his entire life, and is part owner of LaValley Industries, serving primarily as the Chief Financial Officer. Prince ran once for mayor in 2014, and is focusing his campaign on reducing the poverty rate in the Bemidji area by bringing good paying jobs to the community.


Ivan Smith has been in the northern Minnesota area since he was a child. This is Smith’s first campaign, and wants to a part of the change, prompting his entry into municipal politics. Smith sees systemic racism as a problem within our community, and wants to use his privilege to make sustainable change.


Mark Thorson grew up in the Bemidji area, and has watched as Bemidji become a regional center. Thorson works in the construction trade, but briefly worked in California as a screen writer. He is president and owner of Mark’s Sand and Gravel Company, and he says his financial background and management skills could help the city manage the troubled financial waters he sees in its future.

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