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Rice Lake elects two new councilors

Rice Lake. (file / News Tribune)

Back when Rice Lake was a township rather than a city, local politics rarely attracted much attention, but Tuesday's election revealed an active and engaged local electorate, as three candidates vied for two city council seats.

"Back when we were a township, we were lucky if we got 30 people to vote (for township supervisor seats). Now, we're getting 2,100 to 2,300 (votes in a city council race)," said John Werner, mayor of the young city.

Rice Lake Township incorporated to form a city in 2015, largely in response to residents' concerns that the community would eventually be annexed by Duluth.

On Tuesday, Rice Lake residents elected two new people to the city's five-member city council in a tight race.

Jayme Heim, co-owner of the Fall Inn Bar & Grill, finished on top with 38 percent of the total vote, and John Hegstrom won the other open seat with 32 percent of the vote.

Incumbent John Goman came in close behind, receiving nearly 30 percent of the vote — not quite enough to retain his seat.

"I think people in Rice Lake are just excited to see young people wanting to become part of local government," Heim said. "I just really love our city and I want to be a part of making it as great as it can be."

She noted that strong national interest in midterm races also drove people to the polls on Tuesday, boosting voter participation in the Rice Lake City Council election.

As Rice Lake continues to grow, Hegstrom said thoughtful planning will be required.

"The balance for me looks like we're focusing on developing our commercial corridors. So that is generally what we're focusing on right now. And that's where, as a councilor, I want to make sure we don't stray too far from that, because I think there's tremendous opportunity to provide those goods and services and help those businesses establish themselves there in the commercial corridors, while still maintaining Rice Lake's rural character," said Hegstrom, who works as a facilities and asset manager for Jones Lang LaSalle, a firm that's integrated into United Health Group.

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