— Between 2010 and 2020,
Kandiyohi County has increased its population
by 1,493 people, bringing its total to 43,732. The city of Willmar saw most of that growth, now home to 21,015 people, up from 1,405 people, according to the 2020 U.S. Census.
This population growth is forcing the city and county to review constituencies and wards, and redraw boundaries where necessary, to ensure the population is properly represented on Kandiyohi County Council and Willmar City Council. The process is known as recutting.
“The aim is to make sure that we have representation of the citizens who live there, making sure that they (the districts) are as proportional as possible, to make sure that people have the representation that they have right,” said County Administrator Larry Kleindl.
A public briefing on the redistricting, including the presentation of proposed changes to wards and districts at city and county level, was held in Willmar on Wednesday. City and county staff, as well as county commissioners and city council members, were in attendance.
On February 15, the state released the new maps
for federal and state congressional districts. Next come the cities and then the counties. Because three of the county’s districts are part of Willmar, the city must approve its new map before the county can make its own.
Willmar Town Clerk Judy Thompson explained that part of Ward 3 of Ward 2, which is home to 203 people, could move to Ward 1 of Ward 2, while an area of Ward 3 of Ward 3 , which is home to 81 people, could move to Ward 2 from Ward 2. No changes are proposed for Ward 4 and no additional elections will need to be held.
Kleindl presented two new county district maps, both of which have District 3, which includes parts of Willmar and has seen its population grow, set to shrink geographically while District 5 expands due to the resumption of land in District 3. According to county calculations, each district must be within 437 of the district average of 8,746 people. To accomplish this, the proposed redistricting involves moving the Township of St. Johns, population 418, and the Town of Pennock, population 1,296, from District 3 to District 5. It is also possible that the Township of Mamre, population 399 , be moved from District 3 to District 5 as well.
“I think we tried to find a way to make this as non-disruptive as possible, but as inclusive as possible,” Kleindl said.
District 1 will gain territory from District 2, both entirely within Willmar, due to changes in city wards.
Due to the proposed changes to District 5, Kleindl expects there will be a commissioner election for the district in November. That means Commissioner Duane Anderson, who was elected in 2020, will have to run for office this year, instead of in 2024. Seats for Districts 1 and 3 are already up for election this fall.
The redistricting process was led by city and county staff.
“We kept elected officials out of the process,” Kleindl said. “Kept integrity there.”
A public hearing on the city’s proposed changes is scheduled for March 7 at the council meeting, and council must approve the changes by March 29. The county council will hold its public hearing on the proposed changes on April 5, with the new map needing to be approved by April 26. Residents who have questions, concerns or comments are asked to attend meetings if they can. The public can also send comments to the city and county.
“It’s our job as County Commissioners and County Administrator to listen and hear before things are finalized,” said County Commissioner and Chairman of the Board Corky Berg.
has more information on redistricting, including proposed maps and timelines.
Willmar Mayor Marv Calvin expressed his gratitude for the work done by the Town’s Comprehensive Census Group through 2019 and into 2020 to ensure that a large portion of Willmar’s population has filled in the census form. In addition to government representation, census data is used to distribute state and federal aid.
“It was very nice to see the increase in numbers in Kandiyohi County, in the town of Willmar in particular,” Calvin said. “We have seen phenomenal growth in our diverse population.”