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Council-elect express thanks in wake of Tuesday election

Voters in Dakota County had to wait until after Donald Trump’s acceptance speech to find out which local candidates will lead Hastings and the region over the next few years. Although polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, Dakota County results weren’t posted until 2:08 a.m. Nov. 9. It was one of the last two counties in the state to report poll results.

On Wednesday morning, the county released a statement stating that the delay was caused by a small number of incorrect ballots. Election officials had to physically rerun ballots for all 140 Dakota County precincts.

Hastings will have not one, but three new faces on the City Council starting in 2017.

In Ward 1, Tina Folch was the winner, earning 62.46 percent of the vote (1,569). Her opponent, Bryan Alpaugh, ended the night with 36.23 percent (910).

Alpaugh and Folch faced off for a seat left open by councilmember Tony Alongi, who decided not to run for re-election.

“I’m so very excited about this opportunity to serve Hastings, I really am,” Folch said.

She thanked her sisters, Lisa and Angie Folch, for their support throughout her campaign, as well as Don Slaten for giving her good advice.

“He steered me in the right direction,” she said.

Folch also commended Alpaugh and the rest of Hastings’ candidates for running a clean and cordial campaign.

“What a relief that was after everything we’ve endured (at the national level),” she said.

In Ward 2, incumbent Joe Balsanek was voted back for his third term, with 55.44 percent of the vote (1,386). His opponent, Adam Estenson, earned 43.92 percent (1,098).

“I’m just pleased that the voters showed confidence to return me to office,” Balsanek said.

Balsanek was the only incumbent voted back onto the council. Balsanek showcased his experience as a veteran, artist, retiree and business owner, which set him apart from other candidates.

Balsanek said he appreciated the campaign competition he faced as well as the overall field of candidates for council positions.

“It’s always good to have someone running for the office like I am,” he said. “I think it speaks well to Hastings that we had eight people running for four seats. In Hastings, it’s a case of a healthy political situation, where it’s friends and neighbors, but there are people who want to contribute. I appreciate Adam and his positions, and I appreciate the idea of a positive campaign strategy.”

Estenson was making his first attempt at a city council seat, after having served six years on the Hastings Planning Commission.

The third and fourth wards both saw incumbents defeated. Ward 3 voters chose Lisa Leifeld, who won 55.67 percent (1,601). Incumbent Tony Nelson had 43.92 percent (1,263).

“I’m excited for January,” Leifeld said. “I’m excited to get in and start working and see what we can do and continue with some of the things the council has done up to this point that we can continue to improve upon … and see what else is out there.”

Over the course of her campaign, she said she met thousands of amazing people.

“It really illustrates what a great community we live in,” she said.

Leifeld said she had gathered at the home of some close friends to wait for the results. Unfortunately, due to the late reporting in Dakota County, many of her supporters had to leave before the numbers came in.

“It is exciting to see the results, but I wish I could have shared that moment with my family and my friends,” she said.

She noted the efforts of Nelson, her opponent, who had hoped to return for a third term. He was first elected to the council in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. Leifeld said she appreciates the eight years Nelson spent serving on the council.

In Ward 4, Trevor Lund won 57.11 percent of the votes (1,582). Incumbent Danna Elling Schultz, who was running for her fifth term, had 42.24 percent (1,170). Elling Schultz was first elected to the council in 2000 and has won re-election every four years since. Lund, a newcomer to city government, offered himself as a fresh alternative to Schultz’s long council career.

"I'm very excited, for sure," Lund said. "I am absolutely looking forward to getting to work."

The campaign, he said, was a great experience that gave him the opportunity to talk to people, learn about their opinions and hear how they feel about what's happening in the city. He also had the most experienced candidate as his opponent.

"I was up the most seasoned person up for re-election, and that poses its challenges, of course," he said.

Both candidates had strong campaigns within the ward, which Lund said was a positive thing for residents. He also thanked Elling Schultz for running a positive campaign.

Balsanek, Folch and Leifeld will begin their four-year terms in January. 

Balsanek expressed his thanks to Elling Schultz and Nelson for their years of service to the council. They will transition off of the council at the end of this year. Currently, Elling Schultz chairs both the council's Administrative Committee and Finance Committee. She is also a part of the Public Safety, Utilities and Transportation committees and holds the council position of Acting Mayor (handling mayoral duties in the absense of Mayor Paul Hicks). She also serves in an informational role on the Hastings Economic Development and Redevelopment Authority (HEDRA). Nelson chairs the Parks and Recreation Committee and Utilities Committee and is also part of the Finance and Operations committees.

"I do really feel that their expertise on the finance committee was invaluable,” Balsanek said, pointing to their leadership through the Great Recession and their efforts to manage the city budget in a way that wouldn't cause losses to city services.

"It’s going to be a huge void with the two of them not returning," he said, "and I wish them both well.”

He said he's hopeful that, after their terms end this year, the city can tap their expertise in other public service roles, such as HEDRA, city commissions and task forces.