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​Fargo Mayor Walaker dies unexpectedly

News | December 3rd, 2014

City Commission will set special election to replace him next year

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker died unexpectedly at his home this week after a battle with kidney cancer. He had just been released from the hospital but collapsed upon his return home causing shockwaves throughout the community. He had been mayor since 2006, re-elected to his third term just this past June.

“It was a real surprise,” said Fargo’s deputy mayor, Dr. Tim Mahoney, who will now take over as acting mayor. “It was unexpected; I had talked to him yesterday. He was feeling pretty good and was finally coming back to work on Thursday so it was just sad that this all happened last night. Talking to (his wife) Mary, he was doing pretty good at home and then he just collapsed last night so it was a pretty big shock to us all.”

The man who led the community’s flood fight for years, first as the city of Fargo’s operations manager and then as mayor, will leave behind an important legacy.

“I think his big thing why he wanted to run for re-election last time was that he wanted to continue work on the diversion to get it authorized, and he wanted to see shovels on the ground. His legacy will be flood protection. I think that to honor him, we will continue to work vigorously on that,” Mahoney said.

“It’s sad because we talked about city hall too and we’re just kind of finalizing some of the plans for city hall and he was real excited about that because that would be a significant change and that would be under his watch as well. He had many irons in the fire but he’s so proud of many of those things that I think he was real excited about this next year.”

As far as the process to replace Walaker, the City Commission has to hold a special election within the next six months with at least 90 days notice to give time for the city auditor to prepare for an election and allow time for candidates to announce and campaign. The city commission will begin discussing it at Monday’s commission meeting.

“I would imagine in the next couple of weeks they will announce the date for when the special election will be. That depends on a lot of factors. The city auditor’s office will probably be advising the commission on dates that will work. Once they get the dates set, then we will have the election on that date and the new mayor will be appointed two weeks after the election,” said Jason Loos, assistant city attorney for Fargo.

As far as Walaker, with the large impact he made working so many years for the city of Fargo, there is already talk of naming something after him. Perhaps it will be something related to his tireless work on flood protection.

“He was such a huge part of our community, I can’t see us not doing that,” Mahoney said. “Somebody talked about Denny’s ditch last night. It’s whatever we can do to honor him, I think we’ll figure out something. It’s a little early for that but we’ll figure it out.”

Funeral services were pending at press time.

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