- Associated Press - Sunday, May 25, 2014

WAHPETON, N.D. (AP) - Meryl Hansey, 78, wasn’t born and raised in Wahpeton, but he has come to love the community just the same and is now looking to lead the city into the future as one of the mayoral candidates in the 2014 election.

Wahpeton City Council member and candidate for mayor, Renelle Bertsch, 64, is looking toward the future of Wahpeton and sees a larger city on the horizon in the Red River Valley.

Both candidates are running for the open seat of mayor of Wahpeton. Current Mayor Jim Sturdevant is not seeking re-election.

Originally from Bowman, Hansey came to Wahpeton in 1965 and has lived in the Twin Towns area ever since. A father of five grown children, Hansey has had a background of working in farming and carpentry as well as law enforcement.

“I worked in various law enforcement agencies for about 25 years, some as a part-time deputy and also worked in the jail,” Hansey told the Daily News (https://bit.ly/1ne9mCi ).

Just as his background in different professions has been extensive, so, too, is his experiences with the city. 2014 marks the 20th year Hansey, who is currently an at-large City Council member, has served Wahpeton.

Self-described as a farm girl from New Rockford, Bertsch has worked as a real estate broker in both Fargo and Williston and is now self-employed with Mary Kay Cosmetics.

Additionally, Bertsch has more than 30 years of career management experience, which has included both coaching and mentoring more than 250 women to create their own home-based businesses.

Outside of her professional career, Bertsch is also a member of the Wahpeton Rotary Club, the local chapter of the American Association of University Women, a charter member of the Three Rivers Arts Council and a charter member of the Red Door Art Gallery.

During his time holding public office, Hansey held the position of vice president of the city council for eight years and has been the chairman of the Public Works and Safety Committee for seven years.

Additionally, Hansey is chairman of the Weed Board and the Old City Hall task force, as well as being responsible for the flood operations in the last few years. Hansey is also a member of the Community Center board, the Wahpeton Planning Committee, a member of the board for the Southeast Multi County Agency Drug Task Force and chairman of Wahpeton’s fireworks committee.

In terms of working with the city of Wahpeton, Bertsch has been a member of the council for six years and during this time she has served on both the Finance Committee and the Wahpeton Planning Committee.

When it became clear in 2014 the position of mayor would be open, Bertsch said it felt like the right time to run.

“This just appears to be the best time to step forward for mayor of Wahpeton,” Bertsch said. “I looked at all of the exciting things happening in our city and decided this is the best of times. Our gem of a city is perched on a new moment of growth and development.”

Hansey, whose candidacy gets put up to a vote Tuesday, June 10, said he wasn’t originally planning on running for a city election again, however, he saw there was a need for someone to fill the mayor position.

“My intentions were to not run again for city office, but there seemed to be a lack of interest and Mayor (James) Sturdevant was not going to seek another term,” Hansey said.

Now that he is running for mayor, Hansey explained there are a number of issues he looks to prioritize if his campaign is successful.

“We’ve got some issues coming up - relocation of the police department and the 16th Avenue walk path for example,” Hansey said. “The police department relocating is a priority, I would want to finish that by the end of my term.

“I’d also like to see more senior housing and I want to keep our businesses viable and have many amenities for them. I want to see Wahpeton grow. We’ve been a manufacturing hub for quite some time and we don’t want to lose that,” Hansey added.

To win the election, Hansey said he will rely on his experience and common sense approach. He will also look at how Wahpeton’s current mayor operates the city.

“What I want to stress is that I’m going to follow in the footsteps of Jim Sturdevant,” Hansey said. “Mayor Sturdevant was very strong with economic development and I plan on continuing that task. If I can come close to doing the job that he’s done, then I would be able to leave in four years saying I did well.”

Since launching her candidacy, Bertsch said she has been on what she likes to call a fact finding mission the past five weeks to communicate with the public and find answers to what issues they would like to see addressed.

“I’ve been privileged to hear about all of the wonderful ideas that our citizens have and I want to be in the position to forward their visions. I want to work with them,” Bertsch said.

By the end of her term, Bertsch said she hopes to see Wahpeton still growing and evolving. She thinks with expansion the city will flourish.

The biggest hurdle for Bertsch is the time it takes for expansion to happen. “I think everything takes a while,” she said. “I think one of the most frustrating things anyone encounters who wants to see growth is the slowness of development.”

Despite some pieces of growth in the city taking time, Bertsch said she believes the city will grow to be bigger and better than it is today.

“I know in 10 years Wahpeton will definitely be a larger city with more opportunities and hopefully we will be able to keep this small town atmosphere where everybody looks out for one another and keeps that community feel,” Bertsch said.

Hansey said his favorite part of Wahpeton is the people who help make getting up for a new day worth it.

“It makes getting up in the morning a nice thing to do, because you will be looking at smiling faces and hearing kind words,” Hansey said.

Hansey is not married.

As for her favorite part about the city itself, Bertsch said it has to be the people in the community.

“The people. I’m always amazed by the way they volunteer. The volunteers make up the backbone of our community - those people who give their time selflessly,” Bertsch said.

Bertsch is married to Larry Merbach and is a mother and grandmother.

___

Information from: Wahpeton Daily News, https://www.wahpetondailynews.com


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