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Photo by Kent Landerholm, 2012

The League of Women Voters of Dakota County is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences policy through education and advocacy. We meet monthly and also host candidate forums, issue forums, and other events of interest to the community. Please attend one of our meetings or contact us for more information!

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Update: The ACLU of Minnesota, the NAACP Minneapolis, Jewish Community Action, Gender Justice, and the Coalition of Asian American Leaders are hosting a forum at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 21, to hear from the three finalists to fill the vacancy:


On March 23 the Dakota County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to select three finalists to fill the vacancy resulting from the retirement of Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom. The Board plans to conduct public interviews of the three finalists later this spring. The person selected to fill the vacancy will serve the remainder of the existing term and the office will be on the ballot in 2022.

The three finalists include:

  • Kathryn Keena, the acting Dakota County Attorney who has worked for the Dakota County Attorney's Office since April 2000;

  • Elizabeth Lamin, an assistant Ramsey County attorney who has worked for the Ramsey County Attorney's Office since July 2008; and

  • Thomas Pugh, a Minnesota district court senior judge who served as a Dakota County District Court judge from December 2011 through August 2019.

More information about the finalists is available here. The Board is soliciting feedback regarding the selection, which may be submitted via this form.

During its January 26 meeting the ISD 194 School Board voted unanimously in favor of a resolution calling a special election for voters to consider a $44 million bond referendum. The special election will be held on May 11, 2021. If approved by voters, the bond funds will be used to purchase land and build a new elementary school to be completed by the fall of 2024. Constructing a new elementary school is part of the district's broader long-range planning, which projects district enrollment to increase by 2,500 students by 2030.


ISD 194 has created a webpage with more information about the referendum. The projected tax impact would be a $49 increase in annual property taxes for a home valued at $400,000. ISD 194 hosted an informational meeting regarding the referendum on April 13 and video of that meeting is available here.


Voting information about the special election is available here. Early/absentee voting began March 26. Voters may obtain and complete their ballot early in person at 17630 Juniper Path, Suite A in Lakeville from 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Monday - Friday. Dakota County voters living within ISD 194 may also cast their ballot early in person at the Western Service Center, 14955 Galaxie Avenue in Apple Valley, or at the Dakota County Administration Center, 1590 Highway 55, Suite 2300 in Hastings, from 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday. Some extended voting hours will be offered in early May.


ISD 194 plans to hold another special election on November 2, 2021 to fill the vacancy on the School Board resulting from Zach Duckworth's election to the Minnesota Senate. On April 13 the Board unanimously voted to establish the dates of the filing period for candidates which will be July 27 through August 10, 2021. The Board has not appointed anyone to temporarily fill the vacancy despite state law calling for any vacancy on the Board to be filled by appointment.

Updated: a day ago

Update: At its meeting on April 13, 2021, the ISD 194 School Board unanimously voted to establish the dates of the filing period for candidates which will be July 27 through August 10, 2021. A special election to fill the School Board vacancy will be held on November 2, 2021, the date of the general election for school districts and municipalities that hold elections in odd-numbered years. Early/absentee voting will begin on September 17, 2021. The candidate elected during the special election will serve the remainder of the term of the vacated seat, which ends on January 2, 2023.


Background Information


In November the chair of the ISD 194 (Lakeville) School Board, Zach Duckworth, was elected to the Minnesota Senate representing Senate District 58. Senator-elect Duckworth notified the Board of his intent to resign his school board seat effective January 4, 2021. Pursuant to state law, the Board is required to call a special election to fill the vacancy to be held no later than November 2, 2021, the date of the next municipal and school district general election.


The Board discussed the process of calling a special election at its work session on November 17 (relevant video begins at 1:53:23). Memoranda provided to the Board by ISD 194 staff state that the Board is not required to appoint someone to fill the vacancy until a special election can be held. However, Minn. Stat. § 123B.09, subd. 5b, states that "[a]ny vacancy on the board, other than a vacancy described in subdivision 4, must be filled by board appointment at a regular or special meeting." The statute does not say how quickly a school board must fill a vacancy by appointment but the statute does envision a process whereby someone is appointed to fill the time period between when a vacancy occurs and when a special election is held.

Gary Lee, Deputy Executive Director of the Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA), stated in a newsletter published in February 2019 that under similar circumstances "[t]he statute requires that the vacancy be filled by school board appointment until a special election is held in the current year. The appointment process is not defined in statute, so the school board can determine the best process." The Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State's 2020 School District Election Guide likewise states on page 61 that "[a]ny vacancy on a school board, other than a vacancy noted in M.S. 123B.09, subd. 4 (ill or absent member), must be filled by board appointment at a regular or special meeting. The appointment shall be in the form of a resolution entered in the minutes and shall be effective 30 days following adoption of the resolution, subject to M.S. 123B.09, subd. 5b(b) (petition to reject is filed). If the appointment becomes effective, it shall continue until a special election is held."

During its November 17 work session the Board discussed possibly combining the special election to fill the Board vacancy with a bond referendum. More information is available via this Sun Thisweek article.

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