The Roundup -

Three Candidates Running in Watford City Mayoral Race


Justin Voll, who became mayor in a special election after the departure of Brent Sanford to the office of Lieutenant Governor, is not seeking reelection. Three candidates are vying for the office.

Phil Riely was born in Watford City and raised in the community as well. He moved away in 1996 to go to college, where he met his wife and moved back to the area in 1999 to get back into the oilfield. Riely currently works for Whiting Oil and Gas as a lease operator, and is married with two children.

When asked why he wanted to be the mayor of Watford City, Riely responded, “I’ve been involved in the community one way or another in various organizations essentially my entire adult life. It all started four years ago when I ran for City Council and was elected. When my term ended, I had to make a decision whether I wanted to run for mayor or stay on the council.”

Riely continued, “In my four years on the city council, I learned a lot. And I think I can lead the city into the next decade. There are big shoes to fill.”

“We’re in the middle of a nice little upturn in the Bakken,” Riely said. “There’s things I want to make sure that we look at. We’re looking at a new airport. We have put in lots of infrastructure, but there is more to do. I think with my experience on the council I’m the best person for the position. I think it is tailor-made for me.”

When asked if there would be a smooth transition of leadership should he be elected, Riely responded, “I’ve pretty much had Justin Voll sitting to the left of me the entire time I was on the council. We work together really well and the communication is so well between everybody. Would I maybe have different priorities? I say I would, but probably everybody would.”

Gregg Schuetze is also seeking the office. He is married with three children, was born and raised in Eastern Montana and then spent 23 years in the Tri-Cities area of Washington. He has been in Watford City for six years, coming to the town to follow the oil boom and seek employment opportunities. According to Schuetze, he fell in love with the community and wanted to help it. Gregg is currently working as an electrician.

Schuetze told The Roundup, “I have an appreciation for the community. I am excited about our future and I have a good skill set to help us get there.”

When asked what he would focus on as mayor, Schuetze said, “My intention is to focus on smart growth and working together. By smart growth I mean that we need to build the right things at the right time. We need to build things properly, from subdivision plans to the very last house.”

According to Schuetze, there’s not a lot he would change in terms of the mayoral office, because the current mayor has done a fine job.

Schuetze said, “Justin has done a good job. He has served our city for many years. I’m not aware of anything I would do differently.”

“I think I have a good vision for what our community can be,” Schuetze added, “and I have already developed relationships with leaders across our state and our communities that will have huge advantages in us working together to improve everybody’s quality of life.”

Justin Johnsrud is the third candidate running for mayoral office. He is the agriculture education teacher at Watford City High School. Johnsrud has taught for 18 years and has been back in Watford City, where he was born and raised, for eleven years. He is married and has two children.

Johnsrud explained why he was running for mayor, saying, “I’ve been the park board president for the past six years and involved in the park board for the last eight. I’ve had a lot of meetings with city and county officials in planning out the future of Watford City through the boom years. I’m excited for the next cycle that is coming and planning the vision of what Watford City is going to be in the next ten years.”

“Being a school teacher in the community,” Johnsrud said, “and in the Rough Rider project over the years, I’m tied to a lot of different groups. I know what the school and education needs are, what our youth will benefit from, and I think that will help move Watford City in the right direction.”

When asked what to expect for Watford City in coming years, Johnsrud told The Roundup, “The school has done the population studies and their projection for the next ten years is that we may double again. They were spot on before, and you can feel the buzz around Watford City. It feels eerily similar to how it did in 2010.”

Johnsrud explained his priorities for office, saying, “One priority would be housing. We need more single-family housing and more retail businesses. We would also have to be planning for future growth in a controlled manner, and making sure that our financing is in place so that growth is sustainable and if something does happen, we don’t put ourselves in a bad spot financially.”


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