High interest in city election

High interest in city election by David Lias Vermillion � a community that traditionally has had to go begging to find people to serve on its city council – is experiencing a refreshing change on its political front.

Candidates for aldermen positions that soon will be vacant are out in droves.

Some have already turned in nominating petitions to put their names on the city election ballot.

Others are still circulating petitions.

Incumbent Mayor Roger Kozak and one of his challengers, Dan Christopherson, have submitted petitions and are candidates for that office.

Nicholas Severson is presently circulating petitions. If he is successful, he will make Vermillion's mayoral election a three-person race.

Christopherson currently represents the Central Ward on the city council. His pursuit of the mayor's office and the upcoming end of his term has left a vacancy to be filled from his ward.

Roger Jeck, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor two years ago, former state legislator Mary Edelen, and Kate L. Bingen, who unsuccessfully challenged Drake Olson last year, are all circulating petitions to become Central Ward candidates.

City Council incumbent Jack Powell from the Northwest Ward is seeking re-election. He is being challenged by former alderman Joe Grause.

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Southeast Ward incumbent Ray Hofman is being challenged by former alderman Jere Chapman. The two men faced each other in Vermillion's 2002 city election. Hofman narrowly defeated Chapman.

Northeast Ward Alderman Gary Wright, so far, hasn't begun circulating petitions. Should he decide not to seek re-election, however, people from his ward will have a choice in the June 1 election. The ward's Jon P. Callahan and Kent L. Osborne are circulating nominating petitions to become candidates.

Professor William Richardson of The University of South Dakota's political science department said the department's introduction of Vermillion Leadership 2000 to the community may be playing a part in inspiring greater participation by some citizens in the political process.

Other factors � from local controversies to the city's municipal election timed with the state's June 1 primary � may be influencing this year's political activity in the city.

"It's positive in the sense that people are getting involved, and you're potentially getting additonal candidates who are contending for a job that takes an awful lot of work," Richardson said. "The issues on the city's plate � people are seeing how they are being affected by them, and that's good. Suddenly, they are saying, 'Yeah, politics is local.' You can have some of the greatest effects, the most visible, the most immediate effects in the local offices."

Nominating petitions first became available from the city finance officer on March 1. They must be returned with at least 50 signatures to city hall by 5 p.m. April 6.

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