Omerza first into Ely’s mayoral race

Longtime councilor risking seat

by Tom Coombe
For Heidi Omerza, it’s “up or out” when it comes to Ely politics.
The longtime city council member won’t seek re-election this fall and will instead attempt to become mayor.
As of Wednesday, Omerza was the only candidate in the contest for Ely’s highest elected position.
Incumbent Roger Skraba is running for a seat in the state legislature, and Omerza, who lost to Skraba by only 13 votes in a special election last year, is taking another crack at the mayoral seat.
Candidate filings in Ely, both for mayor and for three council positions up for grabs, close at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.
To date, incumbent Angela Campbell is the only candidate in the council election.
Omerza, a mainstay on the city council since winning election in 2006, said this week that it’s time she pursue the mayoral position rather than pursue another four-year term on the council.
“It’s time to step up and be mayor,” she said Tuesday night. “I have all the experience. I’m excited to move up and be mayor. It’s time.”
This is the third time Omerza has sought the mayoral position. She fell short more than a decade ago and again in the special election called in 2021, after a bizarre set of circumstances following a surprise win by Eric Urbas in the 2020 general election.
It’s the first time, however, that Omerza has filed for mayor when her council seat has also been on the line.
“There’s the factor of me not being on the council if I don’t win (the mayoral race,” said Omerza. “Ely has a choice to make.”
During her nearly two decades in office, Omerza has been visible both in Ely and beyond its boundaries. She has been president both of the League of Minnesota Cities and the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, and remains part of the CGMC board, chairing its environmental committee. She is also past president of the Greater Minnesota Partnership.
“There’s a lot of reasons why now,” Omerza said of her run. “It’s hard to sum up in a few words, but I have the experience that Ely needs right now. We have a lot of projects coming to a head, whether it’s child care, housing, economic development. It’s the right time and the right place and I’m ready to move Ely forward.”
Omerza currently works as a long-term substitute at Washington Elementary School and said learning has been a large part of her 16 year in office.
“I have enjoyed learning about the way city government runs,” said Omerza. “I’ve enjoyed meeting people, learning. My whole motto in life is education and I’ve enjoyed educating myself and educating people of all ages.”
The council seats now held by Omerza, Campbell and Al Forsman are up this fall and so far, Campbell is the only candidate in the race.
The early filing period is prompted because of provisions that allow for a city primary, which would be held in conjunction with the state primary on Aug. 10.
At least three candidates would have to file to trigger a mayoral primary.
In the council race, seven or more candidates are needed to force a primary that would reduce the field to six candidates.
Affidavits of candidacy are available at City Hall with the filing period closing at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Candidates may file in person or by mail, and forms may also be accessed on the city website. The filing fee is $5 and candidates must be a resident of Ely.