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Two challengers win county seats

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Two challengers defeated incumbents in Douglas County commissioner races Tuesday.

In District 2, Jim Stratton edged Norm Salto by a margin of 2,109 to 1,867, and in District 4, Charlie Meyer prevailed over Paul C. Anderson, 2,157 to 1,697.

The incumbents in the three other commissioner districts were re-elected.


District 1's Jerry Johnson breezed to a 2,863 to 1,103 win over challenger Bonnie Heuttl.

When asked for a reaction, Johnson said, "It's how the people in District 1 voted and I'll always do the best I can for them."

Johnson said the fact that he's a well-known incumbent in a large district carried him to victory.

What will Johnson focus on when he begins his next term?

"We are still looking at Horizons -- a five-county public health [plan], and whether or not that's going to be a good fit for Douglas County," he said. "As we get into the new year, our remodeling projects are pretty much done. I don't anticipate anything there."

Johnson said he's looking forward to working with the new commissioners, Stratton and Meyer.


Stratton said he was pleasantly surprised with the results.

He plans to work with the other commissioners and Alexandria City Council on cost-saving ideas.

"It's going to be fun," he said. "I think that communicating is one of my strong points, building a team and letting people work as a group to focus on and achieve a goal.

"We have to work together, the county as a whole, and that includes the city," he added.

Stratton said the county and city can look at sharing services that will save taxpayers money, such as eliminating the two-mile building zone around the city.


Bev Bales edged challenger Jerry Rapp by 5 percentage points, winning with 2,154 votes compared to Rapp's 1,922.

Bales will be serving her fourth consecutive term in office.

"I was very pleased and gratified with the support of my constituents," she said.

She believes voters supported her because she stays in close contact with them. "I get their input and work hard to make the best decisions possible," she said.

When she begins her new term, Bales said she will welcome the new commissioners and "continue striving to do what's best for the county."


Meyer, an Alexandria business owner, ended Anderson's 14-year run in the district.

"I'm very satisfied and surprised," he said. "I'm pretty happy with the outcome."

Meyer said that he's known as a straight-forward kind of guy who doesn't mince words. That and the fact that people were looking for a change led him to victory. "I'm not going to sneak up on anybody. People know where I'm coming from."

Meyer plans to focus on fiscal responsibility, such as eliminating costly duplication of services. He said the county should pair up with other cities to cut costs.

One idea to look into, he said is hiring private gravel haulers on the western edge of the county instead of using the county highway crews.

"We should not be expanding government," he said. "We should be modifying it more so we aren't pricing people out of their homes."

Meyer said he's looking forward to working with his fellow commissoners. He's known Olson and Bales for many years. "I hope we'll get some things done," he said. "We've got to slow some of the spending down."


Dan Olson edged challenger Carol Wenner by 18 votes - 1,534 to 1,516.

The margin between them isn't close enough for Wenner to call for a recount unless she agrees to pay for it, according to Vicki Doehling, Douglas County deputy auditor.

"I'm glad that I made it through and can keep working for the county," said Olson.

Why did people vote for him?

"I think that people know me, know what I've been doing over the past 10 years and saw fit to see me finish out for another two years," Olson said.

Olson said that he's looking forward to working together with the incumbents and the new members to get things done, such as finishing up the Law Enforcement Center remodeling project.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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