Nyquist win puts first female ever in Dunn supervisor post

A somewhat rare local election race, in addition to the state and regional offices on the ballot, helped boost voter turnout in Dunn Township.

Mary Nyquist, a familiar face as a staffer at Dunvilla’s Lakeland General Store, won a board seat in Dunn Township.
She is believed to be the first woman ever to serve as a board supervisor in Dunn.

Longtime town board member Charles Kvare, typically a shoe-in in previous elections, found himself challenged by “upstart” Mary Nyquist for a seat on the Dunn board. 

At the state and national level, some observers have labeled Election 2018 as “Year of the Woman,” because of the unusually high number of women seeking public office–and the female vote as one of the most critical constituencies at  the polls. This may have been an indirect factor in Nyquist’s upset. Her opponent  Kvare, is  a West Otter Tail County native with a long history and track record of public service–including his current position on the Lake Region Electric Cooperative board, which serves nearly 30,000 members in the region.

Nyquist is believed to be the first woman to ever serve as a supervisor on the Dunn board–though there have been women in non-voting clerk and treasurer roles over the years.  

A familiar face at Dunvilla’s Lakeland General Store 

“Face recognition” may have further aided Nyquist’s 307-156 victory; as she flashes a familiar smile to thousands of shoppers at the highest-profile business in Dunn Township: Lakeland General Store, where she has worked for eight years.

“I’m thrilled,” said Nyquist, a full time Pelican Lake resident for the past decade,  who was been a seasonal lake visitor her entire life. “I’ve always wanted to be involved…I have a degree in criminal justice, and the governmental process has always fascinated me.”  

A Sabin-area  farm girl and Moorhead High School graduate, Nyquist, 53,  said she was approached by an acquaintance to run for office. 

“I’d like to think I’m fairly knowledgeable, and I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older that, if you want your voice to be heard, you had better speak up,” said Nyquist. “It wasn’t difficult to convince me to run.”

Nyquist keeps informed;  would have favored controversial wind-solar

As far as local government, Nyquist has tried to keep informed on Dunn affairs over the years.  For example, she followed the 2017 controversy over placement of a wind-solar installation within the township.  There was widespread opposition in the Pelican Lake area, but Nyquist said she probably would have supported the project–had she served on the board at the time. 

“I was in favor of the project,” said Nyquist.  “I looked at it as a form of alternative energy, and a good thing for the area.”

Facing stiff opposition, Lake Region Electric withdrew the proposal from the Dunn-Pelican area last year. But Nyquist was “glad they found a spot that was unopposed,” in a less developed area west of Pelican Rapids, where ground was broken this fall. 

She recalls becoming interested in government and the political process in high school, in part, because of her family’s association with then-Congressman, the late Arlan Stangeland–who was also a seasonal resident of the Pelican area lakes country. “I’ve always enjoyed politics…We’ll see what happens,” said Nyquist. She will take her seat on the five-member Dunn board when it convenes for the first meeting of the new year in January 2019.

“I’m eager to learn, and hopefully, I can add some value to the town board,” said Nyquist, the mother of two adult children, the oldest, Catherine Braaten, a Pelican Rapids High School graduate, is a senior at North Dakota State University. 

Seifert, Herseth re-elected

Meanwhile, two Dunn Town Board candidates ran without opposition for two seats on the board: Duane Seifert and Ross Herseth. They will join Nyquist when the new board takes office in January.  

For Dunn Clerk Doug Winter, it was a “treacherous” drive from the remote Dunn hall on the northwest corner of Otter Tail County to election central in Fergus Falls.  

“It was very slippery,” noted Winter of the snow and ice driving conditions.  Despite the conditions voting was brisk at Dunn.  As it turned out, Dunn was the last of 92 precincts reporting results to the county, at nearly 11 p.m. on November 6. 

Dunn turnout 80 percent; last precinct to report 

Dunn Township turnout was 79.8 percent–with 503 ballots cast.  One of the more populous townships in Otter Tail County, Dunn has 630 registered voters.

Nearly 100 Dunn Township voters registered their votes by absentee ballot, noted Clerk Winter.