County Commissioner - District 5 Candidate: Carol WennerRunning for County Commissioner - District 5
Q: Please list your background and specific qualifications for this position.
A: I have been an employee, parent, volunteer, and concerned citizen of Douglas County for 30 years. I received an associate’s degree in marketing sales management from Alexandria Technical and Community College and a bachelor’s degree in business management from Southwest Minnesota State University.
Through these experiences I learned to scrutinize budgets and came to understand the value of building relationships through effective communication skills such as listening and negotiating. I was also employed at the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce where I built strong relationships with local small businesses and served on the Board of Trustees for the Minnesota State Colleges and University System.
Additionally, I worked at Douglas County Hospital and understand the challenges facing hospital and county-level employees. Finally, at Knute Nelson I learned how to advocate for seniors and other vulnerable groups.
In summary, I have a sense of humor, an open mind, a clear vision of where county government should go, and Douglas County residents can count on me to advocate on their behalf.
Q: What do you view as the biggest challenge facing the county right now and how would you deal with it?
A: The demographic forecast for our community is that by 2030, those older than 65 will increase by 70 percent and those 55 or older will double.
Because of likely state government deficits and the increasing service needs of an aging population in Douglas County, we could have fewer resources to meet these increasing demands. This will lead to tightened budgets, even if we raise additional revenues and reduce or eliminate some services.
Because we rely so much on public health nurses to fulfill care plans, it is essential that we have adequate resources, public health nurses and the capacity to manage these growing caseloads. In order to serve a growing senior population we need to maintain a vibrant aging services network at the county level through funding of lower-cost, non-medical services and supports so seniors wishing to stay in their homes can remain independent.
We need to maintain a coordinated and cost-effective system of home and community-based services that will help seniors stay healthy and in their homes. I would encourage an increase in grant funding to fund programming and aggressively advocate for funding in rural areas.
Q: Would you say the current board has shown commitment and follow through on current projects, for example the law enforcement and services center and courtroom remodel? What would your strategy be to further progress?
A: The decision has been made, and it is time to move past the jail/law enforcement facility issue and look to the future of service delivery across departments and county wide.
My strategy for further progress toward improvements in local government would be to engage voters and citizen groups to participate in the decision making process. The residents in Douglas County are willing to accept changes in how services are delivered but they will want to remain informed of why changes or redesign are needed, what is being changed and how they will be impacted. People are willing to participate if they are invited to the table and if they see that their concerns or ideas are seriously considered.
With limited resources available, we need to be thinking about how to redesign our service delivery and overcome the barriers to doing so. We need to encourage innovation and reward cost saving ideas. I believe firmly in the fundamental importance of strong, efficient and effective local government, so I will work diligently with department heads to educate the public on the services provided to citizens in Douglas County as well as the challenges we face in this tough economy.
Q: Is there anything more the county can do to combat aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels? Share other thoughts about protecting water quality.
A: Our lakes are an essential ingredient to our success in Douglas County. The Douglas County Lakes Association has received DNR grant funding for inspections. They conducted a survey on impact, which can be found on their website at www.dcla.org.
We need to continue partnerships with the Douglas County Lakes Association and the DNR. They are the experts we need to rely on to explore the problem and make recommendations to protect our lakes.
The DCLA recommends prohibiting transport by enforcing decontamination of boats and trailers, enforcing existing Minnesota law, and eradication with Zequanox, an environmentally friendly bio pesticide. The Lakes Association has requested funds from the Legacy Act to combat the zebra mussel problem with inspection, education, and enforcement and they urged legislators to provide the DNR with the tools they need to halt the spread as well.
The Douglas County Board of Commissioners supports the Minnesota Senate Action, and the Douglas County Lakes Association recommended the endorsement of a 2011 watercraft season pilot eradication effort on two acres of Lake Darling.
The work is ongoing, but I feel confident that the Douglas County Lakes Association and the DNR will provide the commissioners with the most up-to-date information on water quality issues while keeping the citizens of Douglas County informed and our lakes and waterways as healthy as possible.
Q: County commissioners have recently opened communication with the Alexandria City Council. What would you contribute to this partnership?
A: I have been attending both the Alexandria City Council meetings and the Douglas County Commissioner meetings, and I have been impressed with the camaraderie and the willingness of both entities to attend each other’s meetings.
As resources become scarcer, it is critical to have everyone at the table. My chamber work provided a great conduit for collaboration. Oftentimes I would bring different business sectors together for a common community goal. For example, after attending a lunch and learn hosted by the chamber facilitated by a Minnesota epidemiologist about disaster preparedness for disease epidemics and other community disasters, I learned that one of the first steps in disaster preparedness is to know who the decision makers are in a community.
Crossing traditional organizational lines is a valuable tool to break down barriers to communication. I believe it is a win-win for state, county, city, and business leaders to put this into practice. It is time to set aside any territorial notions and work together to find a better and more efficient way to deliver services.
The state of Minnesota is encouraging counties to implement redesign of services to improve outcomes. We are currently participating in some great partnerships across jurisdictional lines, and we need to encourage department heads to continue improving processes by looking at other best practices.