Opdahl, Schmidt up for New England mayor
NEW ENGLAND — New England residents will vote for a new mayor on June 10, with incumbent Marty Opdahl facing off against city council member Allen Schmidt.
Opdahl, who first took office in June 2010, has overseen New England while its population increased by hundreds during the Bakken oil boom era. New businesses have moved to Main Street, a new fire and ambulance hall has been constructed and more money is coming into the city.
Opdahl counts working with city council to overhaul the zoning ordinances among his biggest accomplishments, which he said other cities in the area have lagged behind on. New ordinances now determine issues like what constitutes a single-family dwelling and where trailer courts can be built.
This month, the city will put the finishing touches on a new zoning map for the entire city.
The mayor acknowledged that he has had some “contentious moments” with city council during his tenure, including a recent battle over allowing bars to stay open later. But, he said he has made strides in conducting council meetings more smoothly than in the past.
Schmidt served as a city council member from 1980 to 2012, and has lived in the city for most of his life.
Taking a break only for a stint to serve in the Air Force in Vietnam, Schmidt said he has been in business in New England for 47 years as the owner of Scenic Construction. He said he has also volunteered extensively for city construction projects, and would like to encourage more volunteerism.
Schmidt has two children and nine grandchildren who live in New England or near it.
He said his biggest contribution during his tenure as a council member was selling the city its community pool, which he had previously owned.
Heading into his next term, if re-elected, Opdahl said he is working with council to fund water infrastructure improvements.
On Schmidt, Opdahl called him a good leader, despite past disagreements.
“We’ve had our battles, but I wish him the best in this election,” Opdahl said.
Schmidt said he would like to empower city council in resolving disputes.
“I’m a firm believer that the council makes the ultimate decision on what gets done,” Schmidt said. “When the council gets involved and does their duty, the growth the city is seeing will be more positive and orderly.”
Schmidt also said he would like to provide more resources to water, sewer and road infrastructure.
The council member has never run for the mayorship before, and acknowledged that he will need some time to acclimate himself with city issues.
But Schmidt said he believes he can steer the city on a “nice, even path.”
“We’ve got to get people who are willing to take a stand and do what they believe is right,” he said.