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Editorial: Forum endorsements for West Fargo city races

Bernie Dardis, candidate for West Fargo mayor Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor1 / 10
Chris Heise, candidate for West Fargo Park Board Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 10
Matour Dot Alier, candidate for West Fargo School Board Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor3 / 10
Jessica Heilman, candidate for West Fargo School Board David Samson / The Forum4 / 10
Brad Olson, West Fargo City Commission candidate Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor5 / 10
Jeff McCracken, candidate for West Fargo Park Board David Samson / The Forum6 / 10
Ken Zetocha, candidate for West Fargo Park Board Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor7 / 10
Eric Gjerdevig, candidate for West Fargo City Commission Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor8 / 10
Kara Gravley Stack, candidate for West Fargo School Board Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor9 / 10
Ben Haney, candidate for West Fargo School Board Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor10 / 10

Bernie Dardis has long been involved in business and civic groups in West Fargo. He's best known for his many years at the helm of Indigo Signworks. It's fitting that one of his many community roles included participation in West Fargo 2.0—fitting because, as a first-time office seeker, Dardis will bring a fresh perspective to City Hall. Rich Mattern has been an able mayor of West Fargo for 16 years, after serving four years on the City Commission. He has helped steer the city as it has grown significantly, with more growth on the horizon. But West Fargo would benefit from having a new leader in City Hall as the city continues to expand its infrastructure and services to meet the needs of its growing population.

To adequately provide those services, West Fargo must expand its commercial property tax base. Dardis is well equipped to lead that effort, given his long tenure in business and in working with business groups, notably the Chamber of Commerce. Dardis stresses cooperation, and his extensive involvement in business and civic groups shows his willingness to work collaboratively. He's the right person for the challenges facing West Fargo.

West Fargo City Commission: Brad Olson and Eric Gjerdevig have the right backgrounds and ideas to keep moving West Fargo forward. We endorse them for West Fargo City Commission. Both highlight the need for affordable housing and to address special assessments as key issues in the race. In sync with Dardis, Gjerdevig, a former software executive, will push to bring more business to West Fargo, critical for paying for services in the growing city, with a tax base that skews overwhelmingly to residential property. In Gjerdevig's view, West Fargo can't simply continue to be a bedroom community to Fargo. Olson wants to hold town hall meetings as a sounding board for residents to be heard on important issues. Both candidates deserve voters' support.

West Fargo School Board: A robust field of 14 candidates is vying for four seats on the West Fargo School Board. We endorse these candidates as the right fit for the board: Matuor Dot Alier, Kara Gravley Stack, Ben Haney and Jessica Heilman. Alier, a refugee from Sudan, is an eligibility officer for Cass County and volunteers for a Lutheran after-school program that includes tutoring. Alier, a graduate of English learner programs, makes ensuring that all students have what they need to learn, including addressing achievement gaps and supporting teachers, a priority. Gravley Stack, who has served on the board for four years, the last year as president, advocates lobbying state lawmakers to change the funding formula to include payments for new students, a huge issue for a district that must accommodate 400 to 600 new students each year. Haney, at 26 the youngest candidate, will be a voice for students with disabilities, having dealt with one himself. He advocates tailoring teaching methods to meet individual students' needs. Heilman, who has a master's degree in human development and family science, advocates examining equity among the schools and working collaboratively. Older schools sometimes lack adequate features. She has an obvious passion for education.

West Fargo Park Board: Our choices for the three openings on the West Fargo Park Board: Ken Zetocha, Jeff McCracken and Chris Heise, all of whom cited the challenges of dealing with continued growth as a priority. Zetocha said the recreational needs of older residents shouldn't be overlooked and would work closely with staff to set priorities, maintaining older parks while creating new parks. McCracken sees the need to improve maintenance programs and to seek efficiencies. In building new parks, the board must provide amenities people want; traditional swings and slides have "gone by the wayside." In meeting future park needs, Heise believes the board must work closely with planners and developers. He also wants to survey residents and have an open dialogue to identify priorities.