Competing in a tight race was foreign territory for longtime Mitchell City Councilman Marty Barington.
But on Tuesday, he found himself in a close race against Pam Bathke, who challenged the 15-year council member for Ward 3. After securing his sixth term on Tuesday, receiving 57.4% of the votes to Bathke’s 42.6%, the tight race made his reelection bid a “special one.”
The incumbent representing Ward 3 defeated first-time challenger Bathke, who ran a campaign on bringing change to the council. In total, 629 votes were cast for the Ward 3 council race, which is the northeast quadrant of the city.
With the win, Barington, a Dakota Wesleyan University graduate and salesman for Custom Touch Homes, will join Jeff Smith and Dan Allen as the longest-serving council members on the eight-person governing body.
"This is the best feeling I've had in a long time. I love that my ward is behind me, and it is such a positive feeling to know that they still stand by me after all the stuff we went through in the past three years,” Barington said, pointing to the pandemic and 2019 flood as the toughest challenges he’s faced in his 15 years on the council.
As for the goals Barington has his sights set on in what will mark his sixth term, making progress on improving Lake Mitchell, advancing the wetland project and strengthening the relationship with the MADC and Chamber of Commerce to bring more industry and economic growth to the city are among his main focus.
“It’s one of our biggest assets, and we’ve made leaps and bounds in the past few years on it,” Barington said of Lake Mitchell restoration efforts. “We are never going to give up on it.”
Another goal that’s recently come into focus for Barington is helping the city’s public safety department. He pointed to the nationwide calls to defund the police as a movement that he vows to keep out of Mitchell.
"I'm not going to overlook public safety as well. With what is going on today's society, public safety is an area we need to maintain here," he said.
Sabers cruises to another term
Dan Sabers' optimistic outlook for the future of Mitchell helped the incumbent earn himself another term on the Mitchell City Council.
The businessman who has represented Ward 1 on the council used his experience to handily defeat his opponent, Clay Loneman, on Tuesday night, receiving 71% of the votes, while Loneman tallied 29%, with 408 votes to Loneman's 167. Loneman previously ran for council on several occasions, but came up short each race.
While Sabers likes the direction the city's been heading lately, the businessman said there is some important work that needs to be done to continue moving Mitchell forward. That includes advancing the wetland project along Firesteel Creek, improve aging infrastructure and work with the Mitchell Area Development Corporation and Mitchell Main Street and Beyond to rejuvenate downtown.
"I'm excited and proud that Mitchell backed me again. We have a lot of great momentum on the projects we are focusing on like the wetland upstream Lake Mitchell and getting big infrastructure projects done," Sabers said, pointing to the East Central Drainage project as one of them.
Tackling the Lake Mitchell issue is something Sabers is focused on in his second term. Sabers said controlling a major source of the problem that’s causing the lake’s algae woes must be done before any dredging takes place.
“We have to address this Lake Mitchell problem, and I’m a firm believer that we have to finish working on the problem upstream before we move onto the lake itself. We have some great groups involved with us like Ducks Unlimited and James River Water Development District, who have been helping us with funding methods to ease taxpayer burden,” Sabers said.
Rejuvenating downtown is another big goal Sabers shares with city leaders. As a Main Street property owner, Sabers hopes to see that type of aesthetic improvements throughout downtown.
As a former high school basketball coach and a one-time Corn Palace director, Sabers said expanding the Corn Palace seating to host larger events like state basketball tournaments is an investment worth pursuing. With the handful of private firms that submitted statement of interest plans to lead a seating expansion project in the city's possession, Sabers is eager to review them and consider moving forward on the goal.
“We have a unique event center in the Corn Palace, but we have an opportunity to make it even better,” he said. “We have the hotel capacity to host big state tournaments and events, so investing in that seating expansion would be a huge boost to our economy.”