The race for Big Lake’s next mayor with two City Council members against each other: incumbent Mayor Mike Wallen and Council Member Paul Knier, both of whom have lived in the city of Big Lake for more than two decades.

Wallen, three-term member of the Big Lake City Council,  was appointed mayor in 2019 after then-mayor Raeanne Danielowski was elected to the Sherburne County Board. After filling the final two years of  Danielowski’s term, Wallen’s term as mayor expires at the end of the year. Knier was elected to his first term on the Big Lake City Council in 2018. His four-year term on the city council expires in 2022.

Wallen said he’s seeking re-election because there are still a lot of projects in the works that he wants to see to completion. 

He stands for two things on the city council: quality of life and public safety.

“Anything I can do to improve the quality of life of Big Lake residents and provide for excellent public safety, I will do,” Wallen said.

Knier is running on a platform of paying down city debt, promoting transparency, and limiting the size of government.

“I look at every decision on the council with those perspectives,” Knier said.

Both men call upon their professional experiences to make solid city council decisions.

Wallen is a former Big Lake business owner and real estate agent who now works as the chief building official for the City of St. Joseph. 

“I feel I have unique experiences which have led to making strong decisions,” Wallen said.

Working with planning and zoning issues in his job as a building official has also resulted in Wallen being able to ask the important and right questions when considering projects back home in Big Lake.

Wallen says he has also gained a unique perspective that benefits as mayor by working each day in a city hall. He understands the value of city staff and is proud of the role he has played in shaping the staff at Big Lake- whether it be administration, community development, or finance.

Knier is a life-long financial planner who has spent two decades building up his Big Lake business.

“Debt is one of our biggest negatives as a community,” Knier says.

In his professional life, Knier says he sees people who are in debt and he sees people who are debt-free. It’s no secret that people who are debt-free are better off. That’s no different in government, Knier says.

“I look to save on expenses where it makes sense,” Knier says.

For example, in 2019 when the city council was considering buying the former A&W property as use as a parking lot for $500,000, he opposed the measure.

“I stood against that. It was not a good move to spend $500,000. That was my take on that,” he said.

The November 3 election will surely be an interesting on in Big Lake. Knier has what is referred to as a “safe election.” If he wins, he will be mayor and will resign from his council seat, resulting in an election or appointment to fill his seat. If Knier loses, he will remain on the city with two more years to his term.

That’s not the case for Wallen. If Wallen wins, he will serve as mayor for four more years. If he loses, his time serving the city as mayor will come to an end at the end of the year.

“You know what, I’ve never had a safe seat- and I’m OK with that,” Wallen said.

Reach Jeff Hage at


Jeff Hage is the managing editor of the Monticello Times. He majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.

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