Huether Earns Another Term as Mayor

By: J.L. Atyeo
Published By: Argus Leader on April 9, 2014

Sioux Falls voters backed Mike Huether’s high-energy, take-all-comers style on Tuesday, returning him to the mayor’s office for another four years.

Huether overcame a focused assault from City Councilor Greg Jamison, who characterized the mayor as a man who plows through rather than reaching out to the people who disagree with his policies.

Voters sided with Huether and gave him a 55 to 45 percent margin. He had 18,749 votes to Jamison’s 15,153.

“This is a city that’s truly engaged in its government,” Huether said addressing a crowd of supporters at the downtown Hilton Garden Inn early in the evening.

Just after 11 p.m., he gave his acceptance speech.

“I’m blessed, I’m going to continue to be the mayor of Sioux Falls,” Huether said.

Huether’s influence could be seen down the ballot as incumbents Rex Rolfing and Michelle Erpenbach – largely seen as allies of the mayor — were returned to the City Council. Newcomers Christine Erickson and Rick Kiley were also elected to the council.

Following the trend, a Huether-backed plan for Walmart at 85th Street and Minnesota Avenue won wide approval from voters while a plan to replace an outdoor pool at Spellerberg Park – which he did not — was defeated.

City election officials were anticipating near record turnouts, and lines were long at the 13 voting centers around the city. There also were a few glitches, including a wi-fi issue at Gloria Dei that delayed voting for about a half hour. The voting center concept – where 12 polling locations replaced the dozens of neighborhood precincts – was used for only the second time in the city.

Tallying the votes also proved difficult, according to Minnehaha County Auditor Bob Litz.

“They are long ballots, 17 inches long, and we’re used to working with 14-inch ballots,” Litz said. “They hang off the edge of the machine and put stress on what is a sensitive machine, so they aren’t going through as fast as we’d like.”

The Jamison camp watched the disappointing results come in at a reception for supporters at Falls Overlook Café.

Jamison said he tried to show that he will put the people first. His campaign focused on addressing crime, traffic flow and road conditions — and reducing debt. That resonated with many supporters on Tuesday night.

“I just know that he’s an honest person and will do the best that he can do,” said Deb Werner, who was at Jamison’s campaign gathering at the Falls Overlook Café. She’s known him since their children went to school together, she said.

Jamison, who has two more years to serve on his council term, couldn’t overcome the advantage an incumbent has, said Dave Munson, who was mayor before Huether.

But it wasn’t enough to win him the election. Jamison has two more years to serve on his council term.

“In elections, it’s always easier for the incumbent,” Munson said. He also noted that with only two candidates, “you have to go full out” campaigning. He said both candidates did well and got their message out.

Huether’s first term required a run-off election against Kermit Staggers. Mayors are limited to serving two consecutive terms.

For Huether on Tuesday night, he was surrounded by some longtime supporters, including Steve Sanford, an attorney who has known him since his days working for Citibank and Premier Bankcard. He said the vibe this year was different than it was four years ago, when Huether won his first term.

“There was uncertainty,” he said.

Sanford likes Huether’s enthusiasm and ability to accomplish things. “He is a manager and has run the city marvelously,” he said.

Nathan Schock, a follower of city politics who formerly taught political science at the University Center, was not surprised to see the incumbent in the lead.

“Voters tend to go with who they know unless there is a real reason not to,” he said.

He said Huether did what most incumbents do, highlighting the successes they’ve had in office so far.

With an hour left to vote, the line stretched out the door of the Morningside Community Center at Harvey Dunn Elementary School. Mike Brown saw the line at the Morningside Community Center, which was closest to his home, and decided to vote at the Wesley United Methodist Church in the Whittier Neighborhood.

“I did not go for the incumbent,” said Brown, who called Huether sarcastic and immature.

Kirsten Rose-Augustus, who came to vote after she got off of work at Lutheran Social Services, decided to vote for Huether after her daughter saw him in the St. Patrick’s Day parade last month. She had met him at school before that, and he remembered her name at the parade, Rose-Augustus said.

“He really made an effort,” she said.

Huether said he wants to keep making progress by completing projects such as building an indoor aquatics center and removing 10 acres of railroad tracks from downtown.

“Sioux Falls, let’s get things done, and all the while we’re going to keep that piggy bank fat and happy,” he said.

The mayor and other newly elected officials will be sworn in May 20.

View the original story here.