Local city councils see new faces following mid-term election

(ABC 6 News) – Following Tuesday night’s election, some changes were made to our local city councils in Austin and Rochester.

In Rochester, community representatives battled this election season vying for three spots on the Rochester City Council. Two men are returning to the council for another term and a new face is joining the chamber this Jan.

The races, while important, were not as contested as other local elections.

Councilman Patrick Keane, who represents ward 1 on the Rochester City Council, was re-elected to serve a second term. Keane beat his opponent Andy Hemenway with 70% of the vote.

“There’s always a worry that ‘are you aligned with your voters’ and it’s just a good feeling the next day that says that the way you’ve been doing your job aligns with what they want to see done,” Keane said. “I feel good about that.”

Keane says his priorities include moving forward with big projects like the Link Rapid Transit plan and transitioning Rochester Public utilities to using more sustainable energy.

“Those are the kinds of things I want to make sure our city doesn’t lose focus on as we go into 2023 into 2024,” Keane explained. “Whatever comes up we gotta stay focused on the long run.”

Along with Councilman Keane, Shaun C. Palmer was re-elected to Ward 5. But, there is also a new face on the council, as newcomer Norman Wahl beat out Vangie Castro in Ward 3.

Wahl was a church pastor for the last 41 years. Wahl says being a leader for so many people in the Lutheran church has prepared him for serving the people of Rochester.

“I’ve had opportunity to listen to all kinds of opinions and then draw some of those options together towards goals that will help us move an organization to a place where we feel like we’re going forward,” Wahl said.

In Austin, Minn., the city council race was a little tighter.

Incumbent Jeff Austin was battling for the member at-large seat against opponent Oballa Oballa. Austin secured his seat, receiving about 800 more votes than Oballa.

“My experience on council, my experience in the community, just the leadership I have provided on council over the years I think that’s what set us apart,” Austin said.

While the race was certainly tight, Oballa Oballa says that even though he did not win in the end, he is proud of his campaign and congratulates Jeff Austin on being able to serve another term.