Editorial - Our choices for county commissionerBecause of population shifts and redistricting, all five Douglas County commissioners are up for election this year. Here are our choices for the job.
Because of population shifts and redistricting, all five Douglas County commissioners are up for election this year. Here are our choices for the job:
DISTRICT 1: JERRY JOHNSON
Incumbent Jerry Johnson and public service go hand in hand. He’s been serving as commissioner for eight and a half years and before that, he served 13 years on the Urness Township Board.
We haven’t agreed with all of Johnson’s decisions over the years, such as the jail issue. But there is no disagreement over his dedication in representing what he believes are the best interests of his constituents in the Brandon, Evansville, Garfield, Kensington and Millerville area. He knows the layout of the land in the county and the ideas that worked and those that didn’t. He’s a careful, conscientious thinker, weighing all the information he receives against how it will impact taxpayers in his district. He realizes the budget is at the forefront of most citizens’ concerns. He’s helped keep the county’s levy low; the board is proposing a levy increase of only about 2 percent next year, which is commendable considering the increased costs of fuel, labor and materials, along with state cuts in local government aid.
Johnson deserves the continued support of District 1 residents on November 6.
His opponent is Bonnie Huettl, who has a deep background in lake and water issues. She was born and raised in the Twin Cities, moved to the area in 1997 and has 22 years of experience in the real estate business.
DISTRICT 2: JIM STRATTON
In a split endorsement, our editorial board gives the edge to challenger Jim Stratton, who would bring a wave of new ideas and new energy to the board.
A resident of the county for more than 40 years, Stratton has leadership experience with the Viking Sportsmen and Sertoma. He holds a degree in supervisory management and has worked for UPS, ITW Heartland and Alexandria Marine. Stratton has made good connections with young people, teaching them leadership skills as a district executive with Boy Scouts. He’s also served in School District 206’s mentorship program. He’s an effective communicator, easy to talk to and open to suggestions that could save the county money or improve the connection between the board and its citizens. He realizes that the board needs to take a long-term view of its expenditures, not just meeting the needs of today, but for a decade or two down the road. He has the background, leadership and resolve to make the tough decisions that will shape the county’s future. Voters should give him the opportunity to lead.
Norm Salto is the District 2 incumbent, serving his second term. It’s hard to find fault with his service and dedication to the county. He thinks before he speaks and personifies the adage that still waters run deep. He served with distinction in the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in the late 1960s, first as deputy and later as elected sheriff.
DISTRICT 3: BEV BALES
Our editorial board was split about the race between incumbent Bev Bales and challenger Jerry Rapp. Both candidates have strengths that would serve the county well. Ultimately, the fact that Bales is so well-liked and popular with the residents of her district shows that she’s in touch with their needs and deserves another four years.
Bales, who is in her third consecutive term of office, puts in long hours not only in her committee work at the county level but with the township and cities in District 3 as well. She’s opened up a dialogue with other counties through her involvement with statewide committees. She was recently elected to chair the Health and Human Services Committee of the Association of Minnesota Counties. We’ve disagreed with more than a few of Bales’ votes in the past, such as her position on the jail, but that’s water under the bridge now. Candidates should be judged on the skills they’ll bring to the office in January.
The knowledge and background of issues Bales has gleaned as commissioner, combined with her unflagging commitment to do what is best for her constituents, make her a good fit for District 3.
Rapp, born and raised in Alexandria, has been a Carlos Township resident for 45 years. He’s co-owner of Rapp Construction and has more than 40 years of experience in commercial and residential building. He’s also been active in farming for four decades.
DISTRICT 4: PAUL ANDERSON
Our editorial board was split on this endorsement. A good case can be made for either candidate – incumbent Paul Anderson or challenger Charlie Meyer.
Anderson was re-elected two years ago to a four-year term but because of redistricting, he is again fighting for re-election. We feel he’s earned the chance to finish what he started.
Anderson, who has served 14 years as commissioner, has been a watchdog of county spending, questioning every expense, asking if there are less expensive options and often voting no to expenditures that aren’t in the budget. He works hard, typically committing 30 to 35 hours a week into the position. He serves on 13 different committees and is on the board of directors for the Association of Minnesota Counties. Through that constant interaction, he’s earned insights into how other counties operate and can bring back those ideas to the county. It would be a shame to lose all the multi-county connections that he’s acquired.
Meyer also has skills to bring to the table. A lifelong resident of Douglas County and long-time worker/owner at Garden Center, he cares about what is happening in the community and to local businesses that continue to see tax increases. He said he’d work with the city to reduce duplication of services and make the county operate more efficiently.
This is a close call to make but a majority of our editorial board feels that Anderson has a fuller understanding of county government and deserves to serve out the term that District 4 residents elected him to do in 2010.
DISTRICT 5: DAN OLSON
Residents in District 5 have a strong, common-sense voice in Dan Olson and they should feel good about re-electing him to complete his third term in office. (Olson, too, won re-election to a four-year term in 2010 but because of redistricting, is again up for election.)
Olson has committed time and study to many key committees, including those dealing with public transportation (Rainbow Rider), mental health issues, the hospital, public health, solid waste management and PrimeWest. He’s not a believer in micro-management. He listens to staff and department heads and doesn’t make snap decisions. One of his biggest strengths is his ability to stay tuned-in to residents of his district. He’s approachable and keeps his mind open to new ideas that not only benefit District 5 but the county as a whole.
There is work to finish up: remodeling the courtroom facilities, getting the sheriff’s office into their remodeled space and working with other entities – nearby counties, the city of Alexandria and other cities in the county – to explore cost-saving ideas. Olson has shown he has the communication skills and long-range vision to help lead the county through the challenges ahead.
His opponent is Carol Wenner. She holds degrees in marketing sales management and business management and has worked for the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, the Douglas County Hospital and Knute Nelson. She’s also served on the board of trustees for the Minnesota State Colleges and University System.