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Niles appointed to city council

Don Niles takes the oath of office at the Aug. 5 Wadena City Council meeting. The attorney, who previously served on the council from 2009 to 2013, was appointed to fill the seat of Brian Hillesland, who resigned last month.

The Wadena City Council filled a vacant position with a familiar face Aug. 5.

At the beginning of the council meeting, members voted unanimously to appoint former Councilman Don Niles to the open seat created when Brian Hillesland resigned last month. Niles, an attorney who specializes in business law and intellectual property, previously served on the council from 2009 to 2013. Instead of running for reelection in 2012, he campaigned for state house, a race he lost to Rep. Mark Anderson.

After the council voted, Niles immediately took the oath of office. Then, he took a seat among his colleagues.

"Welcome back," said Mayor Wayne Wolden.

As the meeting proceeded, it was clear Niles had been there before. He questioned a Minnesota Department of Transportation official about a proposed Highway 10 project and participated in a discussion about distributing relief funds - both issues that had come up during his earlier tenure.

"I'm very pleased to be back, I truly did miss it," Niles said at the end of the meeting. "Thank you for the appointment and I'm particularly excited to be back for the ribbon cutting of the wellness center."

Although the council issued a public notice inviting residents to apply for Hillesland's seat, Niles was the lone applicant. Former Councilman Pete Phillips initially expressed interest, then withdrew from consideration and endorsed Niles' appointment.

The lack of competition resulted in a brief vacancy. A July 16 emergency flood meeting was the only time the council met with four members.

The appointment expires at the end of the year, when the winner of a special election - who will serve the final two years of Hillesland's term - takes office.

Last week, Niles filed to run in that election.

He said he would like to focus on making sure the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center - a project he helped craft during his prior term - succeeds in the long run. Another priority, he said, is to see Highway 10 in Wadena expanded to four-lanes during his lifetime.

"I have a long-term interest in seeing the city grow and succeed," he said.

On Monday, Greg Baron joined the race for the two-year council seat. According to his Facebook profile, the 40-year-old works in quality control at Russ Davis Wholesale.

Baron had not responded to multiple requests for comment as of press time .