Meet the Candidates: Three running for Bemidji’s Ward 5

Featured photo, from left, Ernest Joseph Oppegaard-Peltier III, Nancy Erickson and Don Heinonen. Graphic courtesy of Eric Callagan.

Incumbent Nancy Erickson is facing two challengers in the Ward 5 race this year, Don Heinonen and Ernest Joseph Oppegaard-Peltier III.


Nancy Erickson was first elected to the city council in 2000. She initially was not planning to file again, but she was driven to run again due to the potential for a large turnover in the council, with two resignations in addition to the four regularly-scheduled elections in Wards 1, 3, 5 and the mayoral race. Erickson says her experience, background and her enthusiasm for public service makes her an asset to the council, and helpful in navigating the road ahead.


Don Heinonen has run several campaigns for Bemidji City Council, most recently running against Jim “Doc” Thomspon for the at-large seat in 2018. Heinonen has worked in the automotive industry for many years, and has a lengthy experience in civic organizations, including the Bemidji Jaycees, the Bemidji Elks Club and has served on numerous city committees. Heinonen says, moving forward, the city needs to keep the taxpayer in mind while balancing the needs of the community.


Ernest “Joey” Oppegaard-Peltier III is relatively new to the Bemidji community, but has a passion for civic engagement. He moved to the area about two years ago from North Dakota, where he worked with numerous local and state agencies, including advocating for foster youth. Oppegaard-Peltier III has a background in caregiving, and says being a public servant aligns with the values he has as a caregiver.

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