KENMARE - Legislative and county candidates muscled their way to the podium at Pioneer Day in Kenmare Sunday.
A two-person log-sawing competition drew several candidates who participated in exchange for a chance at the microphone.
"It's a workout," said Shelly Weppler, a candidate for Ward County Commission who competed with her husband, Max. "I can see if I do it again, I am going to have to go to the gym and use some arm pumps."
Jill Schramm/MDN • Reps. Tom Conklin, left, and Kenton Onstad, right, team up to saw a log at the competition Sunday at Pioneer Day in Kenmare.
She had been worried after a trial run before the contest.
"I thought, 'We are in trouble now.' But I have good strong arms here," she said, referring to her partner. Weppler took advantage of strategy and her husband's strength to place the highest of the political candidates in the contest. The Wepplers sawed a piece off a log in less than 30 seconds. Winning the contest in less than 25 seconds, Tim and Melissa Harris held onto the championship title that has been theirs for the past few years in the annual Pioneer Day competition.
"It's all about teamwork," Weppler said. "Teamwork will get it done quicker."
"Being on the county commission is going to be teamwork, just like the two-man saw," said Alan Walter of Minot, a candidate for the commission. Walter teamed with Roger Olson to saw wood.
The team of state Reps. Tom Conklin, D-Douglas, and Kenton Onstad, D-Parshall, both of District 4, went at it with enthusiasm if not great speed.
Having completed that challenge, Onstad later used his minute at the microphone to talk about the challenges facing the Legislature.
"We are really going to have to look at making the proper investment in North Dakota so we can keep our taxes lower and we can sustain this growth," he said.
Jim Lee of Max competed with his wife, Janice, at the other end of the saw. Lee is looking to get back on the county commission, having served from 2001 to 2008. Lee recalled the commission helping to repair Kenmare's Memorial Building and pave a cemetery road during his previous terms. He also had represented Ward County on Kenmare's economic development board and indicated a desire to continue to look after the interests of northern Ward County.
Weppler, who lives between Minot and Burlington, listed public safety as a priority concern, while Bruce I. Christianson of Minot, seeking re-election to the county commission, said holding the line on property taxes and infrastructure are important.
"We are seeing tremendous growth in Ward County. That's not all bad, but what we need to do is manage that growth," Christianson said. Christianson received a health dispensation in the log-sawing competition that allowed him to sponsor a two-man team to compete on his behalf.
State Rep. Glen Froseth, R-Kenmare, also did not compete but got a chance to speak at his hometown event to urge voters to go to the polls. Froseth is an incumbent in District 6 but is running this fall in District 4 due to redistricting changes.
Bryan Quigley, president of Lake County Historical Society, said the society decided to involve the political candidates in Pioneer Day to add some fun to the event.
"We thought it would be a way to get interest in Pioneer Day and the log cutting," he said. He added that the historical society's Pioneer Village relies on county assistance, having received $11,000 last year. Getting the county commission candidates to Kenmare to see the village will help in seeking continued county support, he said.