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Shakeup on Douglas County Board: Two newcomers come out on top

The voters have spoken and come January, two new faces will represent residents on the Douglas County Board.

Two first-time candidates squared off in District 2, with Tim Kalina defeating Judy Backhaus, 52.5 percent to 43.5 percent. In District 5, another first-time candidate, Heather Larson, drew 55.6 percent of the vote, unseating county board chairman Owen Miller, who received 44.0 percent.

The lone incumbent to be re-elected was Charlie Meyer, with 63.4 percent of the vote in the District 4 election against challenger Mike Woods, who had 36.2 percent.

Kalina vs. Backhaus

Kalina, who received 322 more votes than Backhaus — 1,889 to 1,567 — said he knew it was going to be a close race, but his supporters told him not to worry.

"I wasn't so sure, though," said Kalina, who said that he will be resigning from his position at Douglas County Public Works. "I do plan on working up to the date I am sworn in as commissioner."

As for his plans once he takes his seat on the board, Kalina said, "The first thing, I got to get the stuff straightened out with the veterans, and then the issues with employees need to be straightened out."

Kalina calls the time-clock system, which has drawn criticism from some employees, a mess, and is something he wants to change. He wants to look at holding county board meetings in the evenings in hopes of getting more residents involved.

"I want to get input from the people," he said, "and I want to be there for the people."

In a statement to the Echo Press, Backhaus congratulated Kalina and wished him the best.

"I know that he will work hard to deal with the issues that have been identified by our constituents through this election process," she said, "which include a plan for keeping our lakes clean, monitoring our tax dollars and improving employee morale throughout the county."

The incumbent in District 2, Jim Stratton, was defeated in the primary but mounted a write-in campaign for the general election. The names of the write-in votes were not available, but a total of 144 write-ins were received, amounting to 4 percent of the vote.

Miller vs. Larson

Newcomer Heather Larson, who beat out Miller by 307 votes — she received 1,473 and he garnered 1,166 — said she is "very excited" about the new mix of commissioners.

"I think we will add an insightful dynamic to the board," Larson said. "I was feeling fairly confident coming to a close on canvassing because I have been so well received in the community."

Larson's plans as she takes her seat on the county board are to reach out and get feedback from county residents. She wants to hear opinions and ideas and wants to help make Douglas County better than ever.

"I'm thankful to everyone for their support — the county employees, veterans, family, friends, neighbors and my church organization," Larson said.

When contacted the day after the election, Miller only said, "No comment."

Meyer vs. Woods

Meyer, who was first elected to the county board in 2012, comfortably won the election to another term. He received 2,213 votes, or 950 more than his opponent, Mike Woods, who received 1,263.

Meyer said he was pleasantly surprised by the results of his race, but wasn't so sure about the other two races.

"I didn't want to see as many changes as there were," he said. "The board has been working well together. I guess we'll see what happens. I'll know more in a couple of months."

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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