Powell Wins

Jack Powell, who has served as an alderman on the Vermillion City Council for the last 10 years, admitted Tuesday night that he was both happy and a bit nervous following his election as the city's next mayor.

Powell was elected by a wide majority to succeed current Mayor Dan Christopherson, who decided not to seek another term, in Tuesday's municipal election.

Powell easily defeated challenger Nick "Tick" Severson in the mayor's race receiving 76.65 percent of the vote. Powell received 1,093 votes, while Severson got 333.

The mayor-elect vowed to continue listening to Vermillion citizens.

"I try not to make snap decisions, ever. On the other side of that, at some point you have to make a decision, but I try, as best I can, to hear all sides of issues," Powell said. "If something comes along that I don't support, but the majority of the council does support, then I will support it.

"I lean on the people who work with me," he added. "I have no pride of ownership of success, and I feel that if the people who work with me do good, they are going to make me look good. I just think I'll be able to work with the members of the upcoming city council very well."

The lop-sided loss didn't take away Severson's enthusiasm to run for political office again.

But Severson was disappointed he lost by such a wide margin.

"I thought the numbers would be closer," Severson said. "I thought people wanted to improve the city, and I thought wrong."

Even though Severson garnered only 23 percent of the vote, he said he still learned a lot from his campaign and what he can improve on it in the future.

"I learned how to reach out to the public, and I learned from my failures," Severson said. "I did slack off in how I got my information out to the public, so I learned from that."

This was Severson's second attempt to run for mayor of Vermillion, but in four years, his name won't be on the city ballot again as a mayoral candidate.

Instead, Severson will focus on running for the U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent John Thune.

"I'm not done with politics, and the next step is for Senate," Severson said. "No one stepped up to face (John) Thune this time, and I got my name out there. I see myself as a serious candidate."

In the meantime, Severson will turn his attention back to his education as he works to get a degree in political science from USD, and then he plans on getting his law degree as well.

In Vermillion's city council races, Kent Osborne was re-elected to a four-year term with 72 votes, or 62.61 percent. His opponent, James Hoefelmeyer received 43 votes, or 37.39 percent.

"It's great that we had people running in all of the wards. Nobody wants to run unopposed, because nobody wins then. When there is public discussion, when there are new ideas brought forth by new candidates, everybody wins," Osborne said.

Osborne, who is about to finish his sixth year on the Vermillion City Council, will soon begin a new four-year term. He plans to focus his attention on improvements to the city library.

"That's incredibly exciting. There are kids' programs down at the library that are exploding. They don't have enough rooms for all of the kids, and for all of the meetings that they want to schedule, and for all of the technology," he said.

Osborne said he believes the city will need to pay added attention to the Prentis Park swimming pool in the very near future. "In so many communities around us, the discussion of a new pool has really been divisive because of infighting and frustration. I think Vermillion can learn from that and start off on the right foot with a lot of public input."

He hopes the city can form a group with goals similar to the committee that was formed several years ago whose work with the public eventually made the dream of a new city hall in Vermillion a reality.

Osborne noted that the current Vermillion City Council has also taken steps to be prepared for the possible influx of added people if the Hyperion Oil Refinery becomes a reality nearby in Union County.

"We need to be prepared for growth if it happens," he said.

The tightest city council race was in the Central Ward. Incumbent Mary Edelen received 96 votes, or 48.73 percent, losing her bid for re-election by just five votes against opponent John Grayson. Grayson took the race with 101 votes, or 51.27 percent.

"I'm very grateful for the 101 people who cast votes for me," Grayson said. "It's a humbling honor to have won the confidence of the voters, and I'm certainly delighted with the victory.

Grayson has only lived in Vermillion since 2007, and to defeat an incumbent, Grayson said it shows voters wanted a change in the way politics are done in Vermillion.

"It demonstrates an interest in the voters in having a fresh perspective and new ways of looking at things and bringing in new ideas," he said. "We cannot continue to do things the same old way, because it's not always the right course."

Grayson said one of his main goals will be reworking how Vermillion is viewed around the state.

"I'm concerned about Vermillion's brand and the perception of the city to people outside the area," he said. "We need to retain the people who are already here, and work on Vermillion's competitive advantage to bring in newcomers."

Past city alderman Tom Davies will represent the Northwest Ward once again, winning election with 237 votes, or 72.48 percent of the vote. Running against Davies was Jim Wilson, who lost with 90 votes, or 27.52 percent.

Davies was on the city council from 2003 to 2005, but he didn't seek re-election because his son was entering high school, and he didn't want to miss what he felt was an important time in his son's life.

But Davies said he is once again ready to do his part for Vermillion and congratulated his opponent on a good race.

"I'm looking forward to being a part of the council again," he said. "Jim should be commended because he ran a good campaign, and it's not easy to run for office."

Davies will look to get right back in the swing of things as he plans to bring more economic development to Vermillion while also working to control the budget.

"We need to be more aggressive in attracting more businesses to Vermillion, and to encourage local businesses to expand," Davies said. "I am going to do my best to control the budget, and with the way the economy is, people are hurting, so we need to keep taxes and fees under control."

Dennis Zimmerman, a past member, won the Southeast Ward with 261 votes, or 35.95 percent.

"I'm just glad it's over with," Zimmerman said, "and I'm glad I won."

His opponent, John Erikson, received 232 votes, or 31.96 percent, and opponent Kenneth (Andy) Anderson received 233 votes, or 32.09 percent.

"I hope to see Vermillion grow and help the businesses do well, too," Zimmerman said.

Out of 8,018 registered voters, less than 2,000 showed up to the polls yesterday to cast their votes in the Clay County and Vermillion municipal elections.

Of the final 1,877 counted votes, 787 were Republican voters, 1,033 were Democratic and Independent voters and 57 were non-partisan voters.

Ray Hofman was elected Clay County register of deeds with 412 votes, or 42.13 percent. Opponents Jane Olson received 345 votes, or 35.28 percent, and Holly Meins received 221 votes, or 22.60 percent.

Incumbent Les Kephart and Phyllis Packard were the top two vote-getters to receive the  Democratic county commissioner at large nomination. They received 543 votes, or 40.46 percent, and 488 votes, or 36.36 percent of the vote respectively. Alex Ufford came in third with 311 votes, or 23.17 percent.

In the Republican primary election, Chris Nelson received the most nods in Clay County with 353 votes, or 47.13 percent. Opponent Kristi Noem received 257 votes, or 34.31 percent, while opponent Blake Curd got 139 votes, or 18.56 percent.

Dennis Daugaard, with 396 votes, or 52.04 percent, claimed the primary race for governor among Clay County voters. Next in line was Dave Knudson with 175 votes, or 23 percent. Rounding up the bid for governor was Scott Munsterman with 109 votes, or 14.32 percent; Gordon Howie with 68 votes, or 8.94 percent; and Ken Knuppe with 13 votes, or 1.71 percent.

Emily Nohr, Justin Rust and David Lias contributed to this report.

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