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Mayor-elect Ken Tracy is congratulated by his stepdaughter, Summer DeJong , Tuesday night at The Depot in Mitchell after Tracy won the six-way Mitchell mayoral election with 31 percent of the vote. (Chris Huber/Republic)

Tracy wins historic Mitchell mayor race

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Tracy wins historic Mitchell mayor race
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

For the first time in his life, Ken Tracy campaigned hard for an office.

It paid off, as the veteran city councilman was elected mayor of Mitchell on Tuesday. In the past, Tracy had been unopposed three times for a council seat. The one time someone ran against him, he lost.

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But things were different this time, Tracy said during a victory party at The Depot.

"Going door to door, I had a positive response," Tracy said. "This is really my first official campaign."

He defeated Jerry Toomey, John Claggett, Tara Volesky, Roger Haley and Becky Haslam in what is believed to be the first six-candidate race for mayor in the city's history.

Tracy received 1,465 votes, or 31 percent, followed by former councilman Toomey, who collected 1,208 votes, or 26 percent.

Claggett, the chairman of the Davison County Commission, was third with 783 votes, or 17 percent. Political newcomer and substitute teacher Volesky received 671 votes, or 14 percent.

Haley, a retired businessman, earned 442 votes, or 9 percent. Haslam, a youth supervisor at Our Home Inc. who sought a seat in the state House in 2010, received 164 votes, or 3 percent.

There is no provision for a runoff in Mitchell city law, so Tracy is the winner even though he did not receive a majority.

Mayor Lou Sebert did not seek a third term.

Tracy spent about $4,000 in this race, he said, and erected a stylized billboard that garnered a lot of attention, placed yard signs throughout the city and appeared with the other candidates at a forum.

He was also endorsed for mayor by Council President Jeff Smith and Councilman Greg McCurry, who wrote letters to the editor in The Daily Republic advising people to back Tracy.

Smith, McCurry and Councilmen Dan Allen and Marty Barington, along with Sebert and several city employees, were at The Depot to celebrate the win with Tracy, 65, a retired state Department of Revenue agent.

The mayor-elect said he plans to get to work on some long-simmering projects once he takes office next month.

"We've got to get started on the Corn Palace and get something done there," Tracy said, referring to various ideas to improve the Palace and its surrounding area. "The people expect us to."

The city also needs to move City Hall to another location to create more space for an expanded Corn Palace, he said.

Tracy said the city must determine a priority list including a Rec Center expansion, a second sheet of ice and other projects.

He said some of his opponents tried to paint him as the candidate "of the Old Guard," and he said that may be true in part.

"I pictured it as a positive that I had the experience," Tracy said. "I would guess the voters agreed."

The new mayor and the four councilmen who were elected without opposition will take office at the July 2 Mitchell City Council meeting.

All five will serve three-year terms. The mayor is paid $23,484 annually; members of the council are paid $8,089 per year.

Tracy will have to appoint someone to fill a vacancy on the council, since he will leave his Ward 1 seat to become mayor.

He will start considering potential council members now, Tracy said.

"I would like to get someone as soon as possible," he said.

The losing candidates offered a variety of thoughts on the campaign, except for Toomey, who did not answer or return several phone calls.

Claggett said he was "ready to rock and roll" and move ahead after seeing the results.

"We need to have some good discussions on housing and infrastructure," he said. "We got good economic news today. We're moving forward. We just need to keep our foot on the pedal and keep it happening."

Claggett said he planned to continue to serve on the Davison County Commission even if he was elected mayor. He said that became an issue and he didn't attempt to stifle it, and that may have kept his vote down.

"I'm sure it did," he said.

Volesky said she positioned herself as a change candidate, and that didn't go over with some voters. She still is glad she ran.

"I think this is a very conservative town and state, and I think I was a little too progressive," Volesky said. "I think people are very happy with the way things are, and that showed at the polls."

Haley said he expected to receive more votes.

"I thought I would do better than I did," he said. "I had more confidence in the voters than what I received."

Haley thinks he may not have talked about the issues as much as he should have, but plans to remain involved in city affairs.

Haslam was traveling on the East Coast for a family gathering at a school graduation.

"Well, it doesn't really surprise me," she said. "Ken's been on the council, Jerry's pretty well known. I know I didn't put up effort on my part."

Haslam said if she runs for office in the future, she will plan more carefully and seek more donations.

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