FAIRMONT - When Chad Askeland was graduating from Martin County West, Harlan Gorath had already retired from teaching in Fairmont.
The most obvious difference in the two Fairmont City Council contestants might be age, but Ward 2 residents will have other things to consider when they enter the voting booth Nov. 6.
Gorath, 73, was first elected mid-term in 1996, and he resigned from public school teaching two years later, when he ran for his second term. He is currently an adjunct instructor through Minnesota State University, Mankato, supervising student teachers.
"I feel I owe a service to the people of Ward 2 and the citizens of Fairmont," said Gorath, who has lived here with his wife Larainne for the past 47 years.
Fairmont provided good jobs for the couple - Larainne has worked at JCPenney for 40 years and as a merchandiser for American Greeting - and their daughter, Heather, received an excellent education here, Gorath said.
"It's exciting to see, retain and promote a positive lifestyle for the city of Fairmont," he said.
A few of his priorities for the coming years, as written in a letter to city administrator Mike Humpal and stated in an interview with the Sentinel, include:
o Making Fairmont a wireless community, possibly by "developing it as a public utility entity, and financing it via a nominal per electric meter assessment."
o Developing ordinances to "make landlords accountable for illegal happenings in/on their properties."
o Paying closer attention to ordinance enforcement, as a way to establish credibility between citizens and law enforcement/city government.
o Establishing a dog park, signage along trails reading "Animal Waste Causes Disease," and barrels with plastic bags attached to collect pet waste.
"Financing would be supplanted by enforcing ordinances governing pet licensing," he suggested.
o Promoting the city's amenities, from lakes and parks, to artistic and cultural talents "to enhance Fairmont as a destination, as well as growing tourism."
o Improving transparency of city government.
o Cutting expenses by making due with what the city has.
o Providing a city-wide cleanup but requiring some type of proof of residency.
"As a councilor, I look at the four 'E's of government," Gorath said, listing economy, efficiency effectiveness and equity.
But often, he said, it's the little things that should be the first priority: a dog barking, a hole in the road, a street light that's out.
Recruiting new businesses and helping existing businesses expand is not really the responsibility of the council, he believes: "That's what we have an economic development director for."
Askeland, on the other hand, points to local business development as one of his goals in his campaign literature: "We need to find incentives to stimulate business development in Fairmont.
"Many of our young adults leave their hometown and never look back - why? Not enough job opportunities. My goal is to turn that around and attract not only our kids home, but also strong companies that will provide the opportunity for our hometown to thrive and grow."
Askeland bought a house in his ward two years ago, and married Fairmont native Margaux Trembley this summer. For the past five years, he has worked for the U.S. Postal Service as a mail carrier. Prior to that he served in the Navy for four years, where he was stationed in D.C. with the Presidential Honor Guard and then in the Pentagon.
"It was a great learning experience," he said, one that taught him discipline and motivation, but he wanted to move back to southern Minnesota. He grew up in Welcome and graduated from Martin County West in 2003.
"I'm meant to be back in the area," he said. "I love it here. I love knowing your neighbors."
Serving as an elected official is something Askeland has always wanted to do.
"Why not have a say in my future family's future?" he said.
As a mailman, he is out in the community on a daily basis, which he believes gives him an advantage over his competitor.
So far campaigning has been "one of the best experiences of my life," said Askeland, a self-described "people person."
Going door to door, he has heard about a variety of concerns in the ward.
"One thing I've learned is people are not afraid to tell you what they think if you're at their home," he said.
If elected to City Council, Askeland's goals include:
o Supporting local schools and colleges.
"Solid opportunities in education for our young are truly the backbone of any community," he said.
o Promoting Fairmont.
"The lakes in the summer, the outdoor pools, summer activities such as the Triathlon, the Pond Hockey tournament in winter, the Opera House, the list goes on and on. I want all who visit us to experience how amazing our town really is."