Villanueva, Johnson And Benson Have Big Night

The Yankton City Commission will see the return of two incumbents and a new face joining the board.

During Tuesday’s municipal election, Mike Villanueva (1,639 votes) was the top vote-getter while commissioners Nathan Johnson (1,374 votes) and Bridget Benson (1,264 votes) also retained their seats by a wide margin.

The three soundly defeated former commissioner Curt Bernard (480 votes) along with challengers Stacey Nickels (440 votes), Michael Grave (374 votes) and Thomas Bixler (113 votes).

Villanueva told the Press & Dakotan that he was pleased with his performance.

“It’s pretty surreal right now,” he said. “I can’t thank everybody enough for their support. I just have to thank my team, my family, God and everybody. I look forward to getting to work and working for the citizens of Yankton.”

He said he’s very conscious of both the immediate challenges and those yet to come.

“As we go through this pandemic, I know we’re going to have a lot of things that are going to come up,” he said. “I know the wastewater treatment (plant) is on the horizon and some other things are going to be coming up. I just want to get my feet wet and make some really good decisions for the citizens of Yankton.

Benson told the Press & Dakotan that Tuesday’s results affirm that the citizens are confident in her direction.

“It’s one of those things where you’re excited to see the numbers come in the way they did,” she said. “It makes you realize the decisions you made over the last year, for the most part, the community was in support of.”

She said she looks forward to using the skills she acquired in her first term on the board.

“It’s about taking the knowledge of the first three years — whether it’s budgets or even the process of how the meetings are run — and being able to take that to feel more confident in the decisions you’re making,” she said.

Johnson told the Press & Dakotan he’s looking forward to his third term.

“We are going to be part of a strong team on the Yankton City Commission that is poised to make sure Yankton takes advantage of any opportunities that lie ahead of us,” he said.

He said that infrastructure investment and workforce development will be huge in the coming years.

With 2,031 total ballots cast versus 9,125 active voters in the City of Yankton, total turnout for Tuesday’s election was 22.26%, well above the last normally held municipal election (2019) which saw a turnout of 11.66%. The 2020 election was piggybacked on the state’s primary day due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of note, the city also saw 483 absentee ballots cast — more than the 2019 (140), 2018 (82) and 2017 (104) municipal election absentee totals combined (326). City Finance Officer Al Viereck told the Press & Dakotan that there are still three outstanding absentee ballots that, if they were postmarked and sent via mail Tuesday, could still be counted.

The Yankton City Commission will canvass the results during a special election Friday, April 16.


All politics are local, and Tuesday’s elections decided a number of city council and school board races in South Dakota.

In some races, new faces were guaranteed when incumbents didn’t run again. The following is a rundown of races and available results Tuesday night.

• AVON: In the school board race, the three-year terms were won by Bridgette Muller and Craig Vanderlei with 135 and 120 votes, respectively.

They were followed by Annie Thury with 98 votes, avid Ratzlaff with 92 and John Fathke Jr. 60.

The school race drew 266 of 826 registered voters for 32.2% turnout, according to Business Manager Sara Hento.

Muller was an incumbent, while the other candidates were newcomers. The other incumbent, Lori Cihak, didn’t file for re-election.

• BERESFORD: The city and school held a joint election, deciding a number of seats.

In the school board race, four candidates ran for two 3-year terms,

The winners were Nathan R. Jensen with 220 votes and Deb Bergland with 188. They were followed by Mary Beth Ellis with 144 and Jamie Stewart with 129.

Jensen and Bergland take office during the July 12 reorganization meeting, according to Business Manager Jared Olson.

Bergland is the current board president and was the only incumbent in the race.

The school board race drew 367 of 2,404 active voters for 15% turnout.

In the City Council race for Ward 2, a new face was guaranteed as the incumbent didn’t run for re-election. William Roelke defeated Benjamin Fahlberg 65-44 for a two-year term, according to City Finance Officer Elaine Johnson. The election had two unmarked ballots.

The city election drew 111 of 477 active voters for 23% turnout.

• DELMONT: In the city race, voters elected three members to the board of trustees.

In the race for two three-year terms, Donna Soulek and Brandt Garner won with 35 and 31 votes, respectively. The rest of the field included Crystal Travis with 21 votes, Jerrie Lynn Chamber with 16 and Cindy Hoff with seven.

In the race for one one-year term, Terry Takacs defeated Bill Soulek by a 32-24 margin.

• MISSION HILL: A new trustee was elected, as challenger Jess Tramp won the three-year term with 23 votes. He was followed by incumbent Jack Sieben with 19 and challenger Ben Westergren with 2.

Finance officer Leanne Cutts reported 44 ballots cast out of a purged list of 78 registered voters, a 56.4% turnout.

• TYNDALL: The city election featured three races, according to Finance Officer Linda Pesek.

In Ward 1, Jesse Ranek defeated Michael J. Travnicek 26-14 for a two-year term. The 40 votes represented 17.24% turnout.

In Ward 2, Nick Soukup defeated Brad Kopp 22-10 for a two-year term. The 32 votes represented 17.68% turnout.

In Ward 3, Kevin Ranek won the two-year term with 73 votes. He was followed by Michael Schmidt with 29 votes and Wendy Hicks with 6. The 108 votes represented 40.15% turnout.

Overall, the Tyndall city election attracted 180 voters for an overall turnout of 26.39%.

• WAGNER: In the city election, incumbent Taylor Mohr defeated challenger Edward Stimpson 35-15 for a two-year term, according to City Finance Officer Becky Brunsing.

The election drew 16% voter turnout.

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