How many votes does it take to get a Lakeville City Council seat?

UPDATE: The Lakeville City Council appointed Daniel Wolter, as expected. Read the Sun ThisWeek story here. During the meeting, council member Michelle Volk took issue with the words on the graphic above. She said that there are rules and she is right — the Minnesota State Statutes say that the board can call a special election or appoint a replacement. That’s it. Those are the rules. The graphic was used to call attention to all the steps in the appointment process, which are not specified and are in conflict with the processes and transparency that the 2013 city council and the ISD 194 board used in filling vacancies. During this special meeting council member Joshua Lee called for improving and standardizing the process. I thank Volk, Lee and the rest of the council for answering my questions throughout the writing of this series.

By Charles Smith-Dewey

(01-17-23) Tonight the Lakeville City Council will decide who its newest member will be, filling a vacancy caused by the election of council member Luke Hellier to mayor. He’s one of four city council members who will vote. If the vote is tied, Hellier, as mayor, has the power to appoint anyone he likes – even if it’s not one of the finalists the council interviewed.*

Welcome to the wacky world of city council appointments! According to council member Michelle Volk and city administrator Justin Miller, the City Council can make the rules and follow them – or not – as it wishes. Miller said the omission of a city code-required (1-5-2-2: SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS 1 ) email announcement of the January 3 special meeting for interviewing finalists was a software issue and maintains that posting it on a physical bulletin board at city hall and posting the agenda on its website constitutes proper notice.

At a special meeting last week the council took heat for not including Richard Henderson among those it interviewed. Henderson very narrowly lost a November election to fill two council seats. That’s left many people puzzled over why he was not even granted an interview by the councilFor perspective, we looked at how many votes it took for the current city council members to land their seats. For three of them it was a lot fewer than the 12,277 Henderson received in November. Again, the council maintains the appointment process is totally separate from an election.

Joshua Lee: 5,548

  • Joshua Lee defeated Richard Henderson by 782 votes in 2022. That’s a 1.65 percent difference.
  • Henderson’s 12,277 votes (25.91 percent) are more than twice the 5,548 votes (14.53 percent) that put Lee in office in 2018.
  • The combined total of votes Henderson received in his two runs is 20,596. The combined total that Lee received in his two runs is 18,607.

John Bermel: 9,470

  • John Bermel won his seat in 2020 with 9,470 votes (17.13 percent) to Henderson’s fourth place finish that year with 8,319 votes (15.05 percent).
  • Two years later Henderson lost with 12,277 votes (25.91 percent) – that’s 2,870 more than needed to get Bermel into office.

Luke Hellier: 11,083

  • Luke Hellier won his first city council seat in 2016 with 11,083 votes (25.6 percent) in a six-candidate field.
  • Hellier won re-election in 2020 with 13,884 vote (25.11 percent) in an eight-member field (where Bermel won the other seat).

Michelle Volk: 13,128

  • Michelle Volk was elected with 13,128 votes (34.37 percent) in 2018 and was re-elected with 15,572 votes (33.19 percent) in 2022.
  • Volk has appeared on city-wide ballots for two decades, serving 16 years on the Lakeville School Board before being elected to city council. Secretary of State results are not available for her first race.

* Hellier said he would vote for Daniel Wolter, and would appoint him if there is a tie.