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A few surprises popped up during the filing for Douglas County public offices.

Two of the three county commissioner positions up for election are being contested and one of them will trigger a primary.

There will also be a race for the county attorney's office - something that hasn't happened since 1998.

In addition, long-time auditor/treasurer Tom Reddick decided to retire, leaving the position open for Char Rosenow, another long-time employee in the department, who was the only candidate to file for the spot.

The filing period opened May 18 and closed Tuesday. All of the offices are for four-year terms. Here's a look at the candidates:

•County attorney. Douglas County Attorney Chris Karpan will be facing his first challenge while in office. Chad Larson, the senior assistant county attorney in Pope County, also filed for the spot.

Karpan said he's acquired a few "battle scars" from some of the emotional trials in the 12 years he's been the attorney but the decision to re-file wasn't a difficult one.

"If there was anything I'd rather do right now than be the county attorney, I'd be doing it," he said. "It's a rare day when I don't get up and look forward to going to work. Simply put, I feel really lucky to be able to do what I do."

In the next six months leading up to the election, Karpan said he plans to let the people of Douglas County know how much he's enjoyed working for them.

"As for my strategy," Karpan added, "I've got some gray hair around my temples I'm trying to grow out to make sure everyone knows I'm not 31 this time but still love this job as much as I did in 1998."

Karpan became county attorney after defeating incumbent Al Senstad in the 1998 election.

Larson has been prosecuting felony crimes, litigating child protection cases, enforcing child support orders and advising county officials since 2000 when he received his law degree from Hamline University.

He's a member of the Minnesota Bar Association, the Eighth District Bar Association, and currently sits on the 16th District Ethics Committee.

A 1990 graduate of Jefferson High School, Larson earned his bachelor of arts from the University of St. Thomas. While there, he interned at the MN Court of Appeals, gained courtroom experience as student attorney for the Ramsey County Public Defender's Office, and studied religious aspects of law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel.

Larson lives in Alexandria with his wife, Sherry, and their two children, Brooke and Ella.

•County commissioner, District 2. Incumbent Norm Salto filed for his second term and will be challenged by Elroy Frank, who is an Alexandria City Council member for Ward 5.

Salto said that although he isn't completely satisfied with how some county issues were resolved over the past four years - he favored a regional jail system, for example - he stands on his voting record, which he believes reflects the feelings of his constituents.

"I think I'm doing the job the people in the county wanted me to do," Salto said. "The feedback I've been getting from the public has been positive."

One accomplishment Salto mentioned was getting Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management to operate as a business, relying on tipping fees instead of tax dollars.

A former Douglas County sheriff, Salto, 71, is also a business owner and a lifelong resident of the county. He and his wife, Bonnie, have four children.

Frank has served the council for 14 years. He said he decided to run to help the county expand and to bring unity to the board. "I want to work together as a team with positive attitudes," he said.

If elected to the board, Frank said he doesn't have a particular agenda to pursue. "I'd come into it with an open mind and listen to what the people have to say," he said. "This worked well for me as a city council member."

Frank, 53, is married to Loiann and they've lived in Alexandria for 23 years. He's currently unemployed.

District 2 includes the townships of LaGrand and Lake Mary, and Alexandria's Ward 5.

•County commissioner, District 4. Incumbent Paul C. Anderson faces two challengers - Arlan Kakac and Steven Hensley.

Because more than two candidates filed, a primary election will take place on Tuesday, August 10. The two top vote-getters will be placed on the ballot for the November 2 General Election.

Anderson, who has served on the board for 12 years, is seeking a fourth term to finish many of the projects he's been involved in, including the new jail, a digital radio communications system for dispatching and the possibility of sharing dispatching with neighboring counties.

"There's so many things we've started - I'd like to see continuity on the board until some of those things are done," he said.

"And we've got to watch our pennies," added Anderson, who describes himself as fiscally conservative. Anderson, 83, said this would be his last term.

At 20 years old, Hensley is the youngest candidate to file for a county office in many years, perhaps in the history of Douglas County. He meets the age criteria, however, since he would be 21 by the time he'd take office in January.

Hensley said he's running for the commissioner seat because he feels there's a need for true change.

"Election after election, we vote for people who end up not listening to us," he said. "They vote for their own interests and egos and not in the best interest of their constituents."

Hensley said that in small town government, elected officials are becoming too "buddy buddy" with a certain group of people or offices within the local government. "It's too much of a good old boys club around here," he said. "I am running because I truly want to represent the people of my district. I will take the time to listen to the voters and study up on every single issue that affects this area."

Hensley has lived in the Alexandria area for the past seven years and plans to move to District 4 in the next couple of weeks to meet the candidacy requirement of establishing residency in a district at least 30 days before the general election.

Hensley attended Jefferson High School and started a real estate magazine, Welcome Home. He also wrote and produced a play in 9th grade on the Titanic. He volunteers with many organizations and is an active member of his church.

Kakac said he decided to get into the race after numerous people in the district asked him to run.

Kakac has served on the county board before - as District 5 commissioner from 1997 to 2002. He recently moved to District 4, which he considers home; he said his family has deep roots in Hudson Township.

Kakac said the county is confronting many changes, including cuts in state aid, growth and the need for infrastructure - all balanced against taxpayers' budget concerns. He believes his experience as a commissioner and his ability to work with county staff and constituents will guide the county through those challenges.

Kakac, 68, works part-time as a sales associate in the Walmart hardware department. He and his wife, Bonnie, have two grown children.

District 4 includes Hudson Township, the city of Forada and Alexandria's Wards 1, 2 and 4.

Others unopposed

The six other county positions up for election this year are uncontested.

Char Rosenow, who has worked in the county auditor/treasurer office for nearly 26 years, was the only person to file for the top job in the department.

She'll replace Tom Reddick, who served as auditor/treasurer for the past seven years. Reddick is retiring at the end of his term after serving the county for 33 years.

"I think it's time for new ideas," he said. "It's been a real privilege and a very enjoyable experience. I'm lucky to have had the opportunity."

Dan Olson, the county commissioner in District 5, filed for re-election and faces no challengers.

Sheriff Troy Wolbersen, elected in 2006, is also running unopposed.

Recorder Dawn Crouse filed for re-election and will be the only name listed on the ballot.

Two soil and water supervisor positions are also unchallenged - District 1, represented by Paul Barsness, and District 3, represented by Gary Thoennes.

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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