By Brad Nygaard
On Jan. 1, two things will happen. First, Zach Schroeder will be sworn in as Divide County Sheriff.
Second, it will mark the first time in more than 30 years that Lauren Throntveit hasn’t held a position in law enforcement in Divide County.
“It was an honor to run against Lauren and win,” Schroeder said.
He defeated Throntveit, a four-term incumbent, by a total of 102 votes.
“That was a nail-biter,” said Schroeder. “It was a tight, tight race.”
At times, the race was contentious, too. Both candidates, at times, cast the other in a less than favorable light, questioning each other’s suitability to lead the department.
“It was a heated race, and I’d like to put that behind me and move forward,” Schroeder said.
Speaking to county commissioners Wednesday morning, Throntveit expressed gratitude.
“You’ve been great to work with,” he said. “You’re in for a ride now, good luck!”
Divide County voters turned out in larger numbers than in many other counties.
Figures from the Secretary of State’s office show 67.75 percent of Divide County voters, or 1,219 out of 1,799 eligible, cast their ballots.
Statewide, 56.78 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.
By now, it’s no secret Republicans won both congressional races and swept statewide offices, and in several races the local percentages outpaced the rest of the state.
In the U.S. Senate race, Divide County voters gave challenger Kevin Cramer more than 60 percent of their votes, versus statewide, where Cramer held a 55-44 percentage win over Democratic incumbent Heidi Heitkamp.
In the contest for Cramer’s replacement in the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican candidate Kelly Armstrong won nearly 72 percent of the Divide County vote over challengers Democrat Mac Schneider and independent Charles Tuttle, while statewide numbers show Armstrong winning slightly more than 60 percent of votes.
Closer to home, Divide County residents gave GOP incumbent Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem almost 79 percent of their votes over challenger David Clark Thompson.
Stenehjem’s margin of victory in Divide County was more than 11 points higher than his statewide margin of 67.55 versus Clark’s 32.23.
North Dakotans said “no” on Measure 3, but locally, voters were even more emphatic: Nearly 69 percent of the ballots cast in Divide County opposed legalizing recreational marijuana, compared with the rest of the state, where just over 59 percent of electors voted no.
Local measure fails
While most probably aren’t too surprised by any of the other races on last week’s ballots, county commissioners expressed surprise the measure increasing 911 fees failed.
“That’s probably our fault,” Commissioner Gerald Brady said at Wednesday’s commission meeting. “I don’t think we did a good enough job getting the word out about it.”
Of the 1,055 votes cast on the measure countywide, more than 60 percent said “no.” The final tally: 420 yes votes, 635 against.
County voters were asked to increase the fees paid for 911 service by 50 cents per connection, including cell phones on accounts with a Divide County mailing address. Roughly 3,000 phone accounts would be affected.
Currently, those telephone accounts already pay $1 per month for 911 service, while the county pays an additional 46 cents. The additional funds paid by the county covers administrative expenses and funds upgrades to the statewide system.
The request for the increase comes as a result of North Dakota state radio increasing the fees charged to counties for 911 service, and a change in state law requiring state radio to charge counties for the actual costs of services.
Effective Jan. 1, the rate increases to $1.39 per connection.
“It’s unfortunate people didn’t support it,” Commissioner Doug Graupe said. “I’m kind of surprised by it. Almost every other county that’s voted on it has passed it.”
“Someone’s got to pay it,” Commission Chairman Tim Selle said.
That extra expense now falls to the county through the general fund budget. County Auditor Gayle Jastrzebski has estimated those additional 911 fees at roughly $13,000 annually.
“That’s a third of a mill,” Brady said.
“So instead of the phone customers paying it, it’s going to come out of property tax money,” Graupe said.
See next week's Journal for more election coverage.