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Six seek to replace Egan as Red Wing mayor

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RED WING — Next week's special mayoral election in Red Wing will provide voters a wide range of options, including five candidates who have never before held a public office. One candidate, Samantha Tix, is also seeking to break entirely new ground when the polls close Tuesday night.

Tix, a 33-year-old homemaker, is the first member of the Prairie Island Indian Community to ever run for public office in Red Wing, according to a Prairie Island spokesperson. If elected, she'd become just the third woman to become mayor, according to city staff.

With campaign signs visible throughout the city, she called the current support "overwhelming."

"There is a deep lack of trust in local government right now," Tix said. "Many people feel they are not being listened to by those who were elected to represent them. I will bring a fresh perspective and new energy to the office of mayor."

However, she also comes with an unusual past. Tix acknowledged working as an exotic dancer years ago, but says it won't "be the bombshell my male opponents are hoping for."

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"I tell people that America is a place where you can have a past and still have a future," Tix said.

The other candidates include: Dan Bender, 64; Beth Kocina, 62; Chris Nelson, 30; John Sachen, 50; and Ernie Stone, 53. Bender served as a city council member from 2009-12 and Sachen ran an unsuccessful campaign for a council seat in 2010, but the rest are newcomers to the political scene.

The vacancy was created April 1 when Mayor Dennis Egan resigned after city officials and citizens raised concerns about a potential conflict of interest with his role in the silica sand mining industry. Egan was elected via special election in early 2011 and then overwhelmingly re-elected in November 2012.

The winner of Tuesday's special election, which will cost the city around $20,000, will serve out the remainder of Egan's four-year term. It will be a winner-take-all election among the six names on the ballot.

"Any time you get new involvement in the political office, that's a good thing," said Lisa Bayley, Red Wing City Council president and acting mayor.

Tix's mantra of enhancing the public voice was a familiar theme among the six candidates, one of whom will take office to face a number of high-profile issues. Among them are closing the city's public golf course, mothballing its incinerator, navigating a legal battle over its rental inspection code, responding to concerns for public health related to the silica sand industry; and dealing with the long-term storage of nuclear waste, among other things.

Candidates have taken part in three public forums in recent weeks to make their points on those issues.

"The city needs some TLC and some nurturing," said Kocina, a Red Wing insurance agent. "I'm not a political person. I don't know how to talk in circles. (The other candidates) can talk for 10 minutes and not say anything. I've been very direct with my answers and not chirped over the time limit."

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Stone, a maintenance manager at Gemini Inc., in Cannon Falls, said, "We need to have solutions to the existing problems rather than talking about building a new civic center, creating new hiking trails or anything else like that," said

Sachen, a project manager at Red Wing Shoe Co., said, "It's going to be the citizens of Red Wing who decide what we do and what we can afford."

Bender, the group's only retiree, listed the city's "economic vitality" as his main concern, noting he hopes to become Red Wing's "main promoter" if he's elected.

Nelson currently works up to 60-hour weeks as an armed security officer at the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant. If elected, he's arranged to reduce his work responsibilities to ensure adequate time to watch the city's budget like a hawk.

"I thought this would be a good opportunity to stop Monday quarterbacking everybody and just go out there and try it myself," Nelson said.

"You need to have a vision and stay on that or your budget will be all messed up."

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