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Three vie for Meeker County commissioners
Aug. 6, 2012

Three people have filed for the primary election, Tuesday, Aug. 14, for the Meeker County commissioner position; Bryan Larson, Tim Benoit, and Michael Degner. The two finalists will go on to the general election in November.

Bryan Larson, Greenleaf Township

Why are you running for Meeker County commissioner?

My grandfather, Richard Werner, was a county commissioner. I remember how dedicated he was. I would like the opportunity to follow in his footsteps and make a difference. I have wanted to run for county commissioner for some time, and now with the redistricting, I am centrally located in the district and our home is on Lake Minne Belle.

What do you see as the top two concerns facing Meeker County, particularly in District 3, and what are your proposed solutions for these concerns?

We can all be very proud to live in Meeker County. I think the economic development of Meeker County is very important. I will help to keep it strong, like the past commissioners have worked to get us where we are today. It will take long-term planning to ensure a great county into the future.

What makes you the best candidate for this position?

My past experience. I served on the Harvey Township Board for 20 years, the Consumers Co-op Board of Litchfield, ASCS County committee, Augustana Lutheran Homes Advisory Board, Farm Credit Service Advisory Board, the First Lutheran Church of Litchfield Church Council. I graduated from Willmar Vocational-Technical School. I have been farming for over 40 years and have had a construction company since 1980. I am a member of Litchfield Lions Club.

Meeker County District 3 is ag-based and our townships have common areas of interest that I am prepared to represent on the county board. I am honest, a hard worker, and get along with people. I am a good listener, dedicated to serve you.

I have the experience as a farmer and business owner, as township board chair, treasurer and supervisor, and serving several other boards and committees, to be a Meeker County commissioner.

Tim Benoit, Collinwood Township

Why are you running for Meeker County commissioner?

Over the past two years on the Meeker County Board I have worked to bring more transparency to county government. This has been accomplished through the video taping of county board meetings. I am pleased the board voted to do this and I am now working to make sure all of the county appointed committee meetings are video-taped as well. There is no reason to have so much of the people’s business conducted with the eyes and ears of the public absent.

I am running because I would like to continue the work I have started. Due to redistricting, I find myself on the ballot again this year and that is ok. It is important the voters have the right to critique my performance and have the final say in who represents them locally as well as at the state and national level.

What do you see as the top two concerns facing Meeker County, particularly in District 3, and what are your proposed solutions for these concerns?

The two issues I have been involved in heavily have been drainage and road maintenance. The biggest issue beyond these has been the insatiable appetite by government in general to want to provide more and more services that taxpayers cannot afford.

Until you truly research what is actually going on with government at all levels, you don’t really understand the danger of giving up your liberty to attain a state of complacency, thinking the government will solve all of your problems and fulfill your needs. You won’t believe the state and federal programs in existence, and then try to understand the ramifications to voting for or against these programs for implementation at the county level.

Do we have enough people to qualify to get the funding for this? Do we have enough staff to not only provide the service, but does staff have enough time to do the forms and paper work required by the state or federal government?What are the true costs of the program and what happens if the promised matching dollars never arrive?

Try to get your arms around the idea that government will actually provide good health care to us, providing transportation to those who don’t have any, and a roof over the heads of those who don’t have any. The government’s attempt to do these things has resulted in unfair competition with the private sector to provide these services and the cycle of dependency that is created by a government to ensure their existence by selling people on the idea they (government) should be the one-stop-shop when it comes to getting what you want.

For me to have at least a fighting chance to figure out some of these things, I draw on the knowledge and experience of some key people in the county and beyond to help in defining what is best when it comes to participation by Meeker County in such matters.

My two areas of concern that I have experience with is drainage and road maintenance. I am not an expert but I do understand the importance of these issues and the important role the county plays in ensuring these issues are handled correctly and timely.

The county is the ditch authority, but only takes action on maintenance when requested by a landowner or by petition of those in the ditch system. Time passes too fast when we look at the age of our clay tiles and ditch systems as a whole. For too many years the only people concerned about ditch maintenance were the land owners affected when a ditch system failed to work properly.

County officials have demonstrated a bit of reluctance in pushing for maintenance and clean-outs for fear of angering others in the ditch system not affected by flooding with the assessments of routine maintenance. What we find today are ditches full of trees and brush, build-up of silt and failure to move water to where it needs to go.

With improved commodity prices, increased land values and intermittent big rains, we find ourselves under the gun to get these systems back to working the way they were intended. More tiling means each system has more benefitted land owners and we will need to plan redeterminations for all county ditches going forward (unless a redetermination was done in the last decade or so)

It is imperative that this be done in a timely matter. We can no longer afford to pretend this problem will just go away. We need input by many and we need to demand the DNR improve its permitting process so these ditch maintenance projects can proceed and not allow these projects to be held up for years because of a bureaucrats personal politics preventing them from doing their job and work with local governments instead of ignoring them.

The other issue is that of road maintenance and repair. The funding mechanism for road and bridge maintenance throughout the state is broken and our DOT District 8 is no exception. We have allowed a few to tell the majority of Minnesotans that you can’t have good roads with multiple lanes. You can have good roads or multiple lanes but you can’t have both.

Maintenance is only one third of the DOT budget. Would you believe that aesthetics (bike paths and shrubbery) and public transportation makes up two-thirds of the DOT’s budget? So instead of real solutions to road and bridge issues, we are told once again in rural Minnesota that we are not a priority when it comes to real maintenance. We’re told we have to learn to get by with thin overlays and not road rebuilds. We’re told we don’t have the numbers of vehicles using our roads locally to justify spending money on widening and rebuilding. We can only expect some resurfacing and that we shouldn’t be complaining about the rough ride we may encounter.

That is where we at the county level need your help in demanding the funding formulas for the DOT be changed to ensure good infrastructure for the movement of people and goods. We need to demand more and better maintenance locally, including crack filling.

These are things I am referring to when it comes to funding. We spend more money in areas where fewer people are served rather than in areas where the most good can be achieved. The adage of “all boats float in a rising tide” is true and yet ignored by some those who hold positions of power they are appointed to and not elected to.

What makes you the best candidate for this position?

I have started a process of improving government accountability and transparency. I have understood for years the needs of those affected by ditch systems that are not working properly. I have made sure that I am accessible to all residents in the county.

I don’t always have the answer, but will strive to find the answer. I sure work hard to understand the problem. I welcome input from everyone I can talk with about issues facing Meeker County.

I am a public servant. I am not serving in this position to make it a career. Unlike the majority of county commissioners across the state, I am not going to remain a county commissioner until I die, or am voted out of office. I want to start a trend of term limits much like that of our nation’s founding fathers.

Michael Degner, Cosmos Township

No information was submitted.

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