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Doesn't anyone want to be Whalan's mayor?

No one filed to run for mayor in the 2022 general election. Now, Whalan city leaders are seeking a qualified volunteer to step into the role.

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WHALAN, Minn. — Who will serve as Whalan's next mayor?

City leaders are waiting for a, well, leader to step forward.

In the 2022 general election, the 67 residents of Whalan, located northeast of Lanesboro, did not have any mayoral candidates on their ballots — just two incumbent candidates for two seats on the Whalan City Council. Current Mayor Marlys Tuftin did not seek re-election, and no other candidates filed to run for that office.

"I announced earlier this summer that I would not be running for a fourth term," said Tuftin, who has been mayor for six years. "I wanted to be sure it was opened up for others to seek the office, and I did not realize that, you know, there would be no one filing for the position."

As a result, the city received 24 write-in votes for mayor. After canvassing those votes, City Clerk Michele Peterson said the three residents who earned more than one vote all declined the opportunity to be mayor.

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The city has put out a call for a volunteer mayor to by word-of-mouth and on the city website .

"The City of Whalan is looking for a volunteer to serve as the Mayor for a term of two years beginning February 2023, and ending December of 2024," the city website reads. "There is a stipend of $75 per meeting for the Mayor. The Mayor position is in charge of running the monthly meetings, which are currently held the second Monday of each month."

The role is open to any Whalan resident age 18 or older. But, so far, no qualified candidates have reached out to the city, said Peterson.

"In the interim, (city) statute says Mayor Tuftin can continue on until a new mayor is appointed," Peterson said. "We are hopeful that we can find somebody to appoint by the January meeting."

Tuftin said filling elected positions can be a challenge in Whalan sometimes, but this is the first time, to her recollection, the city has faced this unusual problem.

"We have an elderly population here, and I would say a lot of the older persons who live here have probably already served on the council at some time during their stay here in Whalan," Tuftin said. "And not everyone is in a position to be able to offer their time, either, so you just have to respect that as well."

In 1991, the station had four signs, and “I’ve collected everything else,” said Ernie Johnson while looking around the garage filled with old items. People enjoy milling through the station for a look at Whalan history, classic cars, old pumps, car signs and hand crank items.

Tuftin said there is a learning curve involved with the role, so she wants to help Whalan's future mayor through that transition of power and answer any questions they have.

"It's a good chance to learn about your community and to promote your city and learn about your local government and what is all involved in it," Tuftin said. "We're a very small community, and we rely on one another."

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Another solution, according to Peterson: one of the four city council members could volunteer to be mayor, and then another city resident could volunteer to serve on the council.

"As of right now, I haven't heard from any of the current council members that they want to do that," Peterson said.

Interested Whalan residents can contact the city office or speak with Mayor Tuftin or a council member directly. When a volunteer steps up, Tuftin said they will have to give a written or spoken statement of interest to the council, which would then vote whether or not to appoint that individual to the office of mayor.

"I think we're still hopeful that we will find someone who will be able to step up and offer to serve," Tuftin said.

The next Whalan City Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 12 at 5 p.m.

Dené K. Dryden is the Post Bulletin's region reporter, covering the greater Rochester area. Before joining the Post Bulletin in 2022, she attended Kansas State University and served as an editor for the student newspaper, the Kansas State Collegian, and news director for Wildcat 91.9, K-State's student radio station. Readers can reach Dené at ddryden@postbulletin.com.
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