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Voter’s Guide: 2021 ISD 197 School Board & Levy Election

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The 2021 ISD 197 election is on Tuesday, November 2 with absentee voting starting on Friday, September 17. There are three school board seats on the ballot and a levy renewal. Here’s your voter’s guide for ISD 197.

Where & How to Vote

Voter Registration

If you are not registered to vote, you can register now. You can also register at your polling place on election day (you will need to provide proof of residence). If you’re not sure if you’re registered, you can check your voter status.

In-Person Voting

In-person voting will happen on Tuesday, November 2 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at your assigned polling location. Because this is a special election, combined polling places are used—which are often not your regular polling location. Please double check where you should vote using the state’s Polling Place Finder.

Absentee Voting

Absentee voting, which allows for early in-person or mail-in voting, begins on Friday, September 17 and runs through 5 p.m. on Monday, November 1. You can request an absentee ballot from the district and one will be mailed to you. You can also vote in-person at the district office or Northern Dakota County Government Center. The district lists the available days and times for in-person voting.

What’s on the Ballot?

Three of the seven ISD 197 school board seats are on the ballot, as well as an operating levy renewal. Take a look at your sample ballot so you know what to expect.

Note that you can vote for up to three school board candidates.

Printable Voter’s Guide

For a quick glance at the candidates and issues, check out our printable voter’s guide:

ISD 197 Voter's Guide chart

Feel free to download, print, and share this voter’s guide. More on how we created it.

Levy Renewal

ISD 197 has an operating levy up for renewal. Voting yes will not increase taxes, but will continue an existing levy. The levy will raise $1.2 million per year and amounts to $52 per year for an average home (valued at $301,500).

We covered the levy renewal in more detail.

Who’s Running for School Board?

There are 10 candidates running for the three open seats:

  • Timothy J. Aune, Mendota Heights (campaign site)
  • Stephanie A. Auran, West St. Paul
  • John Chandler, Mendota Heights (incumbent; first elected in 2013; campaign site)
  • Mark Grondahl, Mendota Heights (campaign site)
  • Marcus Hill, West St. Paul (incumbent; appointed in 2021; campaign site)
  • Sarah Larsen, Mendota Heights (campaign site)
  • Robert Reese, Sunfish Lake (campaign site)
  • Morgan Steele, West St. Paul (campaign site)
  • Jon Vaupel, Mendota Heights (campaign site)
  • Elena Villarreal, West St. Paul (will appear on ballot, but suspended her campaign in September; If you voted absentee for Villarreal and want to change your vote, you have until two weeks before the election—October 19. To cancel your ballot, contact the election office that sent your ballot.)

You can vote for up to three school board candidates.

Candidate Q&As

We asked the candidates a series of questions and shared their responses:

We’ll continue to update this post as we share more responses.

More Info:

Here’s more information on the candidates:


  • Meet the Candidates: The parent organizations of Garlough, Moreland, and Heritage are hosting a ‘meet the candidates’ event on Saturday, September 25 at the Garlough Outdoor Learning Amphitheater. You can watch video of this event.
  • School Board Candidate Forum: The League of Women Voters held a candidate forum on Thursday, October 7. You can watch the forum thanks to Town Square Television.
  • Talk & Taco: The Optimist Club of West St. Paul will be holding a candidate forum at Dunham’s in West St. Paul on October 20 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. You can watch this forum online.
  • Levy Renewal Informational Meetings: ISD 197 will host two community meetings to share information about the levy renewal on Wednesday October 6 and 13.

Candidate Info

We’ll update this with additional forums and candidate Q&As as they become available.

Thanks for Participating in Our Democracy

No matter who you’re supporting, be sure to get out there and vote.

If you think our civics could be a little more civil, you’re not alone. Learn more about a book, Better Politics, Please, inspired by politics in West St. Paul and written by two West St. Paul residents.

This kind of local election coverage only happens thanks to our generous supporters. Consider joining them with monthly or annual support through Patreon and help keep your community informed.


  1. The Optimist Club Talk n Tacos Candidate Forum event will take place upstairs at Dunham’s Food and Drink, 173 Lothenbach Avenue, WSP from 5:30-7:30 pm on October 20th. All candidates have been invited to appear. Contact Chuck, with any questions. 651-315-8444

  2. Finding local candidates’ websites and social media pages to research their positions used to be so tedious. This voting guide is incredibly helpful.

  3. Please update the Candidate Info section to show that Elena Villarreal has suspended her campaign and that DFL SD 51 has offered letters of support for Tim Aune and Morgan Steele.

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