Minnesota News

Mankato council incumbents all seeking reelection

Five people standing, while two sit behind a desk.
Three seats on the Mankato City Council are on this fall's ballot, and all three incumbents are seeking another four-year term — Mike Laven, seated, Dennis Dieken, second from the left, and Jenn Melby-Kelley, right.
City of Mankato

By Mark Fischenich, Mankato Free Press

All three races for Mankato City Council seats this year will have an incumbent seeking reelection.

After Council President Mike Laven filed for a sixth nonconsecutive term on the opening day of the two-week candidate filing period on Tuesday, Council members Dennis Dieken and Jenn Melby-Kelley — both two-term incumbents — filed for another four-year term on the second day.

Dieken, a Belleview Avenue resident, represents Ward 2, which covers all of Mankato north of Madison Avenue. Dieken’s first attempt to join the council came with an unsuccessful write-in campaign in 2012 against incumbent Council member Tamra Rovney.

In his second attempt in 2016, he toppled Rovney — a 12-year veteran — and then won reelection in 2020 with 74% of the vote over Gatluak Puot Well. Dieken is the council’s representative on the All Seasons Arena Board and has been involved in the planning for the $13.8 million renovation of the community ice rink. He also serves on the Planning Commission.

The same year Dieken was defeating an incumbent, Jenn Melby-Kelley was unseating Council member Jason Mattick, although it was a friendly competition with both candidates expressing fondness for the other. The exchange at a candidate forum for all council candidates leading up to the 2016 general was indicative of the race.

“You’re very sweet,” Melby-Kelley said of Mattick, who responded, “I’ve just heard platitudes and platitudes about how great you are. ... I think there’s five really awesome people up here.”

Melby-Kelley, the longtime owner of an Old Town coffee shop, prevailed with 53% of the vote and was unopposed in 2020. The East Pleasant Street resident is now seeking a third term representing Ward 4, although she will have new voters to meet after the ward’s borders shift with redistricting following the 2020 census. It now covers west Mankato along with downtown and Old Town and the Washington Park, Sibley Park and Lincoln Park neighborhoods.

Challengers to any of the three incumbents can step forward anytime before 5 p.m. June 4.

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