Steve Bakken will run against incumbent Mike Seminary for Bismarck mayor.
“Bismarck needs a change,” Bakken said of his decision to run.
He says he is making his official announcement this afternoon on KFYR 550 AM Radio with Todd Mitchell and will gather the necessary signatures over the coming week.
Bakken, a former Bismarck radio show host and the business development manager for Larson Engineering, is a Grand Forks native who has lived in Bismarck for about seven years.
Bakken said his platform will be clarity and transparency in city government.
“(Government) needs to move in a different direction and be accountable to the taxpayers,” he said.
Bakken points to recent items, such as changes to utility fees opposed by area homebuilders and the handling of shelter for Bismarck’s homeless.
“These conversations should have been had a long time ago,” he said of the utility fee changes.
And he criticized the $10,000 of special projects funding going toward helping shelter the homeless during the cold winter months as not well utilized and not solving the issue for the long term.
“It’s not taxpayer money well spent,” he said.
Bakken moved around a lot working in radio but decided he wanted to get back home to North Dakota, starting in Fargo then moving to Bismarck.
“I love Bismarck,” Bakken said, with its combination of a political atmosphere and the outdoors. “It’s the best of all worlds … Bismarck is just a good place; it’s home.”
In college, he followed politics quite a bit but couldn’t put roots down to get into the race himself.
“It’s something I put on the back burner,” Bakken said.
Bakken first started talking of a mayoral bid when Mayor Mike Seminary was in the midst of a recall attempt that ultimately failed due to a lack of approved signatures.
Problem solving, his willingness to listen and his ability to see the bigger picture are some of the qualities Bakken thinks will make him a good mayor.
“One thing we’re lacking is seeing how the pieces connect,” he said in May, who points to governmental entities, including county, schools, parks and local state legislators, operating in silos.
“Everybody does their own thing. There’s no bigger plan or path to get there … To be successful, everybody needs to be on the same page,” he said. “There’s too much going on for that not to happen … We’re a vibrant economic city. We’re not going to stop growing.”
Bakken points to Dickinson, where local state legislators meet regularly with local government officials and know exactly what the community needs before going into legislative session.
What caused Bismarck’s need for infrastructure funding was a lack of planning when choosing where to build schools, according to Bakken, who said school location is the No. 1 driver of development and a lack of communication between governmental entities led to an expansion of infrastructure that the city must now find a way to pay to maintain.
“Cities grow, but you need to plan the growth,” he said.
Bakken said Bismarck is more than what’s within the city limits and wants the city to work more closely with Mandan and Lincoln, similarly to relationships between Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo and Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.
“It’s the culture that’s got to change,” he said of the need for a leader who will listen to taxpayers and provide more direction for city employees and government operations.
Among other goals if he were to be elected mayor, Bakken said he would like to get rid of or shrink Bismarck’s extra-territorial area. As for a bypass north of town to divert truck traffic off of Bismarck’s State Street, he says the city needs it and he would like to see it happen.