Herald JournalHerald Journal, Jan. 19, 2004

County board chairman Ray Bayerl

By Ryan Gueningsman

Ray Bayerl ran for a spot on the McLeod County Board of Commissioners in June 1990, at the request of the family of a deceased friend.

Fourteen years later, and for the second time in his county board career, he was recently elected to the position of board chairman.

Basically the board chairman is responsible for "running an orderly meeting and making sure nothing gets out of hand, making any announcements, and going over the agenda with the county administrator," Bayerl said. He was also elected to the chairman position in 1994 and 1995.

The board meets two times a month ­ the first Tuesday after the first Monday, and also the third Tuesday of the month. There are also four evening meetings throughout the year.

Looking ahead

"Budget is the big issue, with the state cutbacks, it will be a large issue for the 2005 budget, which we will be working on in July," Bayerl said.

He noted that he is not sure how the budget will pan out, but said that after the legislature is finished meeting, it will be more clear what the board will be facing in terms of cuts.

"I don't think it (cuts) will be that bad this year if the forecasts are right," Bayerl said. "Last year, we had well over a million dollar cut from the state."

The entire board was involved in the cuts, Bayerl said. He also noted that only one position, that being in the extension service, was cut.

Any expenses more than $1,000 had to come before the board, even though it already had been approved, he noted. "It was over the last six months, but it really didn't make meetings any longer."

Another thing that is always an issue is highway maintenance, Bayerl said.

"It's important to keep the roads up because it is so easy to fall behind," he said. As of now, there are no major construction projects planned for this summer that Bayerl knows of, just the routine maintenance work.

"We're just trying to hold our own through this," he said. "There's not a lot of money coming."

Any county road that has a number above 50 is totally funded by property taxes, and any county road with a number under 50 is a state aid road, he explained.

"(McLeod County Road) 1 was funded totally by the state. You get so much funds each year for maintaining it, too," he said.

Bayerl also addressed the changing landscape of the county, noting that the eastern part of McLeod County is becoming more suburban, while the western part remains more rural.

"The metro is influencing this side a lot more than the west side," he said. "There's quite a difference already, and we'll continue to grow, I'm sure."

He noted there is a lot of pressure in this area for developments, and noted that most building permits issued in the county last year were for mostly along the eastern and northern part.

"The southwestern part has some, but not a lot, not to the extent we do here," he said.

Bayerl's background

Bayerl has been married to his wife Carol for 43 years, and they have six children.

Their oldest daughter, Debbie and Dan McNamee live in Mahnomen, and have four children.

John owns John's Repair in Winsted, his wife Chris teaches at Lester Prairie Schools, and they have one child.

Tom works for Hutchinson Technology, his wife Janette works at Scherping Systems, and they have four children.

Richard works at Millerbernd Design and Fabrication, his wife Cheryl does day care, and they have two children.

Tim is a truck driver in St. Joseph. He and his girlfriend Tara have one child.

Ann does day care, and her husband Jim Heimeral works at ABC Lumber in Montrose. They reside in Lester Prairie and have two children.

Bayerl has farmed for many years. He used to have dairy and beef cattle, but for the last 17 to 18 years it has just been beef, and for the last four to five years, it's just crop farming ­ no cattle at all.

He grew up on a farm located between Winsted and Lester Prairie, and continues to live in the same area today.

Not holding any other seats in public office, Bayerl was elected to the county board in June 1999 in a special election for Lawrence Fiecke's seat, following Fiecke's death.

"I had no issues going in," Bayerl said. "I knew Lawrence Fiecke, and he had told his kids that if he didn't make it, that I should run for commissioner. I hadn't really thought about it at that time, but when he passed away, some of his family said 'he wanted you to run.'"

"I gave it a try and thought it would be interesting, and it has proven to be interesting," he said. "I've met a lot of very nice people, which I would not have had the opportunity to otherwise."

Bayerl represents District 1, which encompasses the cities of Winsted, Lester Prairie, and Silver Lake; and Winsted, Bergen, and Hale townships.

This is his fourth four-year term on the board, and he also serves on the planning commission and the Trailblazer Transit board, in addition to the Crow River Joint Powers Board, and Minnesota River Joint Powers Board, which both work on water quality, he said.

Reflecting on his 14 years on the board, Bayerl said that the remodeling projects that the county has done were some of the biggest undertakings.

"Any time there's any remodeling or building projects that the county is involved in, that takes a lot of extra time," he said.

Looking back on all the decisions he has made in that time, he said, "If you work through them, get all the information you can get from both sides, than it usually seems clear what you need to do. It's not what everybody wants you to do always.

"If you're on the losing end of a vote, you just have to let go of it afterwards and move on," he added. "It doesn't do any good to hang on."

Bayerl's term will be up this fall, and he said that he will decide by July if he is going to run for a fifth term.

"You never know what six months will bring," Bayerl said. "At that time, we'll take a look at it."

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