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Norman Johnson

Norm Johnson is retiring from Farmers Mutual Insurance after 35 years of work. He spent the past 21 years as the manager.

On Nov. 5, voters in Osage will decide between two first-time candidates, Darla Olson and Chrystal Berche, for the open at-large seat on the City Council. 

In St. Ansgar, Mayor Norman Johnson is facing a re-election challenge from Keith Horgen, who previously served on the City Council. 

Also on Nov. 5, voters in the Osage Community School District will decide on a public measure to extend the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy, as well as the PPEL income surtax, for another 10 years. 

Olson, director of Iowa State University Extension for Mitchell County, said she decided to run for Osage City Council because "I am passionate about our community and the potential we have to continue to be a vital community."

Olson, 51, who has lived in Osage for more than 25 years, said she's a good communicator and believes "mutual respect is important and necessary" when dealing with others. 

If Osage doesn't maintain its current workforce and attract new employees, the community will stagnate economically, according to Olson. 

She also said people are looking for affordable housing. 

The city needs to continue providing help to small businesses downtown through the Main Street loan program, according to Olson. 

She said there's been talk in the past as to whether the city should reduce its police force, but she's against that. Olson said the community needs to invest in public safety, not make cuts.

Olson said water quality is important to her. 

"I am glad we are investigating solutions and I look forward to learning more about our options," she said.  I hope we can find an affordable solution."

Berche, who spent four years covering Osage City Council for the Mitchell County Press-News, said this gave her "the opportunity to get a feel for the ins and outs of city government."

"I am running for city council because I fell in love with the governmental process during my time as an observer, and as a resident of Osage, I would like to see it continue to thrive and progress," she said. 

Berche, 43, recently served on the Redistricting Commission, which determined options for dividing Mitchell County into five districts rather than three after voters approved a 2018 ballot measure to change the membership of the board of supervisors from three to five. 

She has been serving as a representative for Mitchell County on the North Iowa Area Council of Governments board for the past year and a half. Berche also is on a committee for affordable housing.

She said she is concerned about Osage losing businesses due to relocation, either because they wish to expand and cannot find the workers or because they do not have the space they need to do so. 

"Osage has a great deal to offer, and I do believe we need to do more to promote our town, be it through promotional videos/advertisement of the amenities our town offers, to highlighting our schools, the low level of crime, the diversity of our churches, our new daycare, our festivals and farmers markets and so much more," Berche said. 

Osage needs to continue to promote the Cedar River Complex, as well as local businesses such as Limestone Brewery and Taste that use fresh, locally-grown produce, according to Berche. 

Berche is a freelance author, photographer and graphic designer. She also teaches writing classes through North Iowa Area Community College's Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning programs. 

St. Ansgar mayoral race

Johnson, who is running for a second two-year term, said it takes those first two years for a mayor just to "get to know what needs to be done." 

He said the biggest issue the city is facing is taking care of its infrastructure needs, including the streets and sewage lagoons. 

"We want to grow, so we need to do something about it," Johnson said. 

The city has lots of options available, and needs to pick the best one, according to Johnson. 

He said St. Ansgar, like other towns, has to face the challenge of coming up with the money to do what needs to be done. 

"We want to grow, but we want to do it sensibly," Johnson said. "We can't continue on the same path. We have to change our thinking."

Johnson, 74, is retired from the insurance business. 

Horgen, who has served on the City Council a few times in the past, said he wants to return to city government because of the issues he is passionate about. 

One of those issues is making improvements to the water and sewer systems, which he says has waited long enough. 

"You can only kick the can down the road so many times," Horgen said. 

The streets in St. Ansgar as well as the street lights, also are in bad shape, according to Horgen. 

"We need to make long-range plans," he said. 

Horgen would like to see the city pursue grants and loans for these projects. 

Horgen is 69. Before he retired he worked for a number of local businesses, including Grain Millers and L.R. Falk Construction. 

Osage school PPEL vote

Voters in the Osage school district approved the current PPEL in 2011. The Nov. 5 vote is on whether to continue the levy up to a maximum $1.34 per $1,000 of assessed value, blended with an income surtax, over the next 10 years.

This fund can only be used for school district expenditures including energy conservation, building repairs/renovations, purchasing of buses and other school vehicles, and technology and equipment exceeding $500, according to xxxxxx, superintendent of the Osage school district. 

The PPEL question on the ballot is not for a new tax, but an extension of the levy that is already in place, according to xxxxx

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