A familiar face was appointed to the Le Sueur City Council. On Monday, council members voted 5-1 in favor of former City Councilor Mark Huntington’s candidacy for the open seat.
Huntington served multiple terms on the City Council from 2005-2008 and 2015-2020. Last year, the city councilor was considering a run for mayor, but heart complications interrupted those plans. Huntington underwent open heart surgery to replace an aortic valve in August 2020. Facing a minimum of eight weeks of recovery, Huntington said he wasn’t certain he could handle a campaign.
More than a year after his surgery, Huntington is ready to return to the council without missing a beat.
“I felt a need to come back on,” said Huntington. “I’ve enjoyed it before. I enjoy working with the city staff and for this city, and that’s why I put my name in the hat to come back on.”
The new councilor will serve his appointment through Dec. 31, 2022, filling a vacancy left by former councilor Leah Mahoney. Mahoney was appointed to a vacant seat on Jan. 25 and resigned from her nine-month tenure on the council upon moving to New Prague.
When asked by the City Council what are the two greatest issues facing the community, Huntington said the city needs to attract new businesses and encourage people to come and shop in Le Sueur. He also said there was too much misinformation in the community about the city government and encouraged people to come to council meetings.
“I think one of the most pressing issues this town has is just misinformation about certain things,” said Huntington. “Now being outside and not being part of the government for the past nine months or so, I see a lot more of the way people talk in this town, not knowing what’s really going on.”
Three other candidates applied for the vacant seat, including Mike Touhey, James Gulbranson and John Schultz. The City Council publicly interviewed all four candidates at the Monday council meeting before making a decision.
Though he had no government experience, Touhey touted his administrative experience as a retired director of plastics operations and corporate director of quality control for Le Sueur Inc. Touhey described himself as a fiscal conservative whose biggest concerns were the city’s rising property taxes and utility rates.
“This city is pricing itself out of the market. People are moving out more than they are moving in because of the utilities,” said Touhey. “We got Davis, we got Cambria, because the utility rates in St. Peter were outrageous … and I think we’re heading that way and I don’t understand why.”
Taking a page from former Delaware Governor Pete du Pont, Touhey advised the city should limit its spending to 98% of anticipated revenue.
Gulbranson came before the City Council as a former councilor for the city of Long Lake and a member of the United States Hwy. 12 Turnback Committee between 2017 and 2018. The applicant said he wanted to get involved in the community. His priorities included revitalizing business in the area and tackling commercial truck traffic on Le Sueur roads.
“[I would] figure out how best to deal with modified exhaust large commercial trucks using Le Sueur streets as a route from start to destination, while contributing nothing to the business economy or residential peace and quiet,” wrote Gulbranson in his application.
Schultz spoke on his 30-year history of community involvement in Le Sueur, including his time as a Le Sueur City councilor between 2011-2015 and his terms on the Le Sueur School Board between 1982-1990, as well as his experience as a small business owner. The former councilor also touted energy policy plans for the council he developed in 2013.
Before the Le Sueur City Council selected a candidate, Councilor Newell Krogmann advised his fellow members to consider a candidate that would be a team player and could offer the best perspective on the city.
“You can have different opinions, different ideas, good,” said Krogmann. “But I don’t want someone who will disrupt us in the work we are trying to do … The other is who has the best perspective, as you’ve seen them here, in their writing of where the city is now and where we’re going.“
Councilor Nick Loose nominated Touhey for the position, but none of the other council members supported his motion. Krogmann then moved to appoint Mark Huntington. Five of the six council members voted in Huntington’s favor, while Loose voted against the appointment.