Candidate profiles for Wright County Commissioner –third district

September 1, 2008

Primary Tuesday, Sept. 9 will narrow field

Voters in Wright County’s Third District will be narrowing down the number of hopefuls for the county commissioner seat representing that district in the primary election Tuesday, Sept. 9.

Three names will be on the ballot, with the two candidates with the highest vote totals advancing to the general election Tuesday, Nov. 4.

The state primary will be Tuesday, Sept. 9, with polling hours from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. District three includes the City of Delano, Franklin Township, Buffalo city precinct 3, Rockford city (Wright County part) and Township, Waverly city, and Woodland Township.

Below are candidate profiles for each candidate seeking the position.

Jack Russek

Why are you running for office?

I am seeking reelection for the Wright County Third District commissioner seat  I have held since 1993. I want to continue doing the work for the county that I have done for the last 16 years, and people have told me they are satisfied.

I was born and lived my whole life in Wright County except for my time in the Army.

My wife Renata and I have been married 49 years, have two married daughters and nine grandchildren. We owned and operated a successful dairy farm from 1961 until 1995, when we sold the cows and rented out the farm so I could devote all my time to being a commissioner.

We lived on the farm until 2005, when we moved to 309 Bridge Ave E. in Delano.

What do you think are three major issues at this time and what do you propose to do about them?

1. Funding – continue to be conservative, fair, and open-minded.

2. Bringing more industry into the county (I am working with the city of Delano to get the industrial park started).

3. Be ready for the continued growth when it recovers from the present slump.

Why should you be elected?  

I am seeking reelection based on my record of the past 16 years.

Conservative but fair, honest, and dedicated to this county.

To help Wright County work with several neighboring counties to accomplish water quality improvement on the Crow River.

To continue work with Sherburne and Anoka counties on the forensic lab to help process prisoners faster and to save jail time and dollars.

I serve on many board-appointed committees, including the planning commission, owners, extension, mental health advisory, the Crow River Organization of Waters Joint Powers, and the four-county RC & D Council, which I am currently chair of and also the board liaison to the Wright Soil and Water Board.

I am also the director for the Association of Minnesota Counties district five, having been elected by my fellow commissioners and the commissioners from 10 other counties.

My wife and I are currently members of the Delano Friends of the Library committee, and have been delivering Meals on Wheels in the Delano area for over 20 years.

If reelected, I promise to continue to do my best for the third district and all of Wright County for the next four years.

Jon Steinmetz

Why are you running for office?

My decision to run for Wright County Commissioner stems from several encounters with the county.

We need the county to cooperate with the cities. Townships, cities, counties all need to get along and plan ahead for our future.

We need to create more efficiencies in government and reduce the overall taxation in the county; this will in turn create a more competitive environment to bring in more businesses and create new jobs.

Buffalo, Delano, Rockford, Waverly, Rockford Township, and Franklin Township are all bedroom communities, and more than two-thirds of the population commutes to Minneapolis and the suburbs to get to their jobs.

In order for our communities to be successful, we need to keep people in our communities and provide good-paying careers.

Drive less, work closer to home equals more time, more money, and a better community.

We need a county that will lead us into the future, not a future of new taxes, new jails, recycling/composting plants that don’t work. Lower taxes, streamline government. Let’s make government work for all of us.

I have been involved in politics for some time. I was elected in 2000 to the Delano City Council, then in 2002 as mayor.

I am president and founder of the Delano/Franklin Township Historical Society and owner of Jon Steinmetz Realty, former operations fire chief Minnetonka Fire Department, past vice president of Manufacturers Traffic Assn. Inc.

What do you think are three major issues at this time and what do you propose to do about them? 

County government spending, new business development, and retention of county employees.

The county has been adamantly opposed to new business development. They (county) have held up the Delano Industrial Park Development for over three years, and during that time, the county has added a $60 million dollar jail facility to our tax liability, and years ago they spent millions on a compost facility that never opened its doors and has been mothballed for several years.

We need an increase in revenue growth through business development, not just raising taxes.

Retention of county employees. Wright County has had a high attrition rate over the last few years. Why are employees leaving? Is it their pay? Or something more (management)?

We need good employees that can count on a future with the county and we don’t want to lose money on all the training that employees receive and then decide to leave.

Why should you be elected?

What we (city council) did in Delano was to create a comprehensive plan that would look out over the next 20 years and improve our community.

Sewers were repaired and expanded, trails were connected to Rebecca Regional Park and the Luce Line trail, we negotiated with MnDOT to redesign our Highway 12 corridor and make sure it was safe by tapering down the roadway and building in boulevards to let drivers know that they are entering our city.

We insisted that MnDOT build a larger bridge over the Crow River so that pedestrians and children would be able to cross under the roadway and not be injured crossing over. We hired a finance director to monitor the city’s budget and account for all of the revenue, keep it balanced.

I have had the experience from being elected as a council person, mayor, and small business owner.

I think we did a very good job improving our community, and I know that I can do the same with the county.

Matt Walker

Why are you running for office? 

So many of my friends, neighbors and relatives have become frustrated with the way county government is treating its residents over so many issues.  

When discussing the possibility of running  for this office with people it got down to “put up or shut up,” so here we are. I decided to try and do something about it.

What do you think are three major issues at this time and what do you propose to do about them? 

1. Zoning issues are very important.  

Many of the current zoning ordinances, written in the mid-’70s, do not fit the vision of land owners today.  

A common theme from residents that I talk to is that they want to see less restrictive zoning. I would start with changing to a 1-per-20 on rural property, and possibly a 1-per-10 in some areas as long as township and city officials could work out an agreement concerning annexation.  

I believe that it is government’s place to make it easier for an individual to find success.  

Clearly the viability of the small family farm isn’t what it used to be, but I believe that with a creative approach to zoning, some rural families could market their building entitlements and continue to make a living off the land.  

Too often, I have seen an adversarial relationship between the county,  cities and townships.  

Elected officials have to keep in mind that our free form of government does not make us the enemy, rather, constituents.

2.  Spending, in general, needs to be brought under control.  

Recently, we have seen the expenditure of nearly $50 million for a new jail and law enforcement center.  

The building is being put up on the northern edge of Buffalo. An expansion may have been needed, however to further fragment our county services is wasteful.  

More staff will be needed to transport prisoners through our community for court appearances. When the last jail was built, I remember we were told that it could be built up.   Additional structures could be built alongside it to accommodate future expansion.  

When that jail was built, it was done to keep services centrally located; that wasn‘t important this time?  

Recently, the commissioners became concerned about security at the courthouse, so metal detectors and deputies were placed at two entrances to the courthouse.  

If our county has deteriorated to the point of searching the elderly, we have a serious problem, and removing the sheriff and his deputies away from the courthouse would only seem to add to the problem.  

You must remember that there are no security measures in place after the courthouse closes for business, but is open for meetings.  

A weapon could easily be hidden after hours. There are no security measures at the human services building, and there is at least as much of a threat there, as at the courthouse.  

I will seek a solution using resources we already have.

3. County employees need a voice on the board.  

I have met with several groups  during the campaign process and talked to many county employees.  

Having worked for Wright County from 1983 to 2002, I sympathize with them. To their credit, money in the form of raises doesn’t come up as one would expect, but rather how they feel bullied by the members of the board.  

An employee who can’t find rewards at their job will soon find themselves having to go to work rather than wanting to go to work.  

The result is we have lost  far too many good employees over the years to justify the loss.  

I have pledged to the employees that I have spoken to.  I will be working with them on issues moving to expand to a more flexible work schedule. I would also move to establish a labor management committee to help resolve non-contractual issues the employees face.

Why should you be elected?

I am proposing that change is a good thing.

The sitting commissioner has been there for 16 years. I am a staunch supporter of term limits.  

I believe that more than two terms as a commissioner is too long. Fresh ideas  are good. Turnover on a board is also a good thing.  

As a deputy sheriff and police officer for nearly the past 25 years, as well as having held public office as a town board supervisor, I have had a great opportunity to listen to a wide variety of people.  

I am a working middle class family man who commutes to work and enjoys what I have been afforded in life. In part, this is my way of giving back.

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