A year after electing Al Hull to his first term as mayor of Mounds View, the city's voters will head back to the polls Nov. 7 to fill the seat left open by his death.
Hull died in May, just months into his first mayoral term — which he ran for unopposed, winning 96% of the vote.
Hull was well-known in Mounds View, a city of about 13,000 where he developed friendships with many residents as the manager of a local gas station, said City Administrator Nyle Zikmund. Hull was a longtime member of the City Council — even proposing to his wife during a meeting, according to media reports.
Hull, who had previously battled cancer, had been diagnosed again and was being treated when he developed an infection and died, Zikmund said. Hull's death was "a tremendous loss" of an active community member, he said.
"He wasn't a wealthy man in terms of finances, but he was wealthy and rich beyond means when it comes to relationships and all that," Zikmund said. "His heart was bigger than anything he had."
Two candidates, longtime resident Joe Holl and City Council Member Zach Lindstrom, are running in a special election to finish the remaining year of Hull's term through December 2024. In Mounds View, the mayor is a voting member of the council and presides over meetings.
Holl, who runs a trucking company, said he's lived in Mounds View for 20 years and decided to run for mayor because of concerns with transparency in city government.
"Too many times, no one knows what's going on until there's something [either being] bulldozed or moved out or something, and that's a failure on the city's part for communication," he said. "And it's been like that for a long time."
Holl said he feels the availability of information about council activity on the city's website has deteriorated, and he has concerns that not everyone can find what they're looking for either there or on social media. Given the city's size, he said, it wouldn't be hard to distribute information to residents' homes to make sure they're aware of issues that could affect them or their neighborhood.
Holl also said he's concerned that the council continues to make decisions with one fewer member in Hull's absence on matters he believes can wait.
Lindstrom, who works as a credit union loan officer, was first elected to the Mounds View City Council in 2022, in a four-person race where the top two vote-getters won seats. Voters chose Council Member Sherry Gunn, who won 31% of votes, and newcomer Lindstrom, who won 28%. Mounds View council members are elected to represent the city at-large.
Lindstrom's run is also predicated on transparency concerns. He said he ran for council last year because he felt city government could do a better job communicating with residents. Specifically, he voiced frustration with what he saw as a failure by the city and elected officials to fully communicate with residents about a tax levy.
Before he was elected, Lindstrom said, he started posting City Council agendas and meeting recaps on Facebook and holding weekly open-door meetings at the local Caribou Coffee to talk to residents.
"I wanted to bring the information to the people in a place where they, if they want to read it, it's right there," he said, adding that he thinks it's made Mounds View residents more engaged in city government.
As for his run for mayor, Lindstrom said he sees it as an opportunity to continue his transparency efforts as a leader on the council. He listed the preservation of green space and building a dog park as other priorities.