So who's the Willmar 4?

That’s the buzz making the rounds in Willmar lately. It’s everywhere. We’ve seen the mini-billboards at the KEC, at the Highway 71 ramp on Lakeland Avenue, to the east of the 1st Street railroad bridge near Foot Lake, and at El Tapatio on 1st Street. And then there’s those ubiquitous “No Willmar 4” stickers plastered on cars and public spaces all over town.

We know what Willmar 4 is not. It is not a reference to the Willmar Ten Investors group. It has nothing to do with the Willmar 8 women who picketed the Bank of Willmar over equal pay.

According to the Willmar 4 website (, the Willmar 4 is the tag team of: Kathy Schwantes, city council candidate for Ward 1; Julie Asmus, Ward 2 candidate; Fernando Alvarado, running for Ward 3; and Willmar’s boisterous, bullying mayor, Marv Calvin.

Kandiyohi County Commission Candidate Doug Reese should be thrown in here for good measure as well.

The website offers a compelling case. What do the Willmar 4, including Doug Reese, have in common? First, they are all lifelong government workers accustomed to job security, generous benefits, and a belief that all of life’s problems can be solved by bigger government, higher taxes, and more spending. It is said that the team is owned and operated by Willmar’s most powerful insiders: the insidious special interests who work in the shadows behind Jennie-O/Hormel; the Chamber of Commerce; Willmar Moving Forward; Recall Ron; and Vision 2040.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is what could be called “the Independent 4”. They are: Linda Kacher, city council candidate for Ward 1; Steve Peppin, running for Ward 2; Bob Enos, candidate for the council’s Ward 3 seat; and Steve Ahmann, the District 2 candidate for the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners. Steve is preparing to vacate the Ward 3 city council seat for which Enos and Alvarado are vying.

Unlike the Willmar 4, the Independent 4 hold no allegiances to special interest groups in Willmar. The Independent 4 did not spend a lifetime feeding at the taxpayers’ trough, as did the Willmar 4. Like most people you know, what Kacher, Peppin, Enos, and Ahmann share in common is having toiled, sacrificed, and competed for success in the private sector - as businesspeople, entrepreneurs, and corporate managers. No perks, no government pensions, no public employee unions guaranteeing security from cradle to grave.

Willmar has two very different choices for locally elected candidates. Willmar 4 and the Independent 4 represent two parallel, but very different views of the world.

To choose the Willmar 4 is to choose the status quo. No change, entrenched special interests, an increasingly poor citizenry with few options in life, and a continued decline in Willmar’s quality of life.

To choose the Independent 4 is to acknowledge that what has been happening for far too long in Willmar is a program that is simply not working. Voting the Independent 4 into office is your declaration that Willmar is not working s it should; that Willmar needs new blood, new perspectives, new ways of thinking about problem-solving, and the infusion of an entrepreneurial spirit if the city is to have any hope to revitalize and re-invent itself and its future.

On November 8, fellow Willmarites, it will all be up to you.