Herald Journal - Voters' Guide '08

Two candidates to vie for Wright County Commissioner

Two county commissioner seats are open in Wright County this year, the position currently served by Jack Russek of Delano (District 3), and the position served by Karla Heeter of Silver Creek Township, which is District 1 (primarily the Annandale area). Heeter did not re-file and took a job elsewhere.

District 3 is local, which includes the cities of Waverly, Delano, and Rockford, and Woodland Township.

Two candidates filed for District 3, Jack Russek and Matt Walker of Buffalo.

Jack Russek

Why are you running for office?

I am seeking re-election to help continue on projects we are currently engaged in. We have formed a joint powers board with Anoka and Sherburn counties for a new crime lab being built in Anoka County, which will help solve crimes faster and save both jail time and money. We also are part of a joint powers agreement with several other counties for our forensic services.

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

The two most important issues will be the budget, and hiring and and retaining good staff. I feel we can keep the budget steady, and for staff, we do compare very well with the counties in our salary market study group.

Why should you be elected?

I feel I should be re-elected based on my past experience and work. I have helped to create a subordinate sewer distrcit around lakes Charlotte and Martha, to solve their sewer problem and make the lakes better. I helped to form the joint powers board for the Crow River Organization of Water with nine other counties to help clean-up the river. Also, the Mid Minnesota R.C. & D. with Stearns and Benton counties.

I am currently AMC District 5 director, elected by commissioners from Wright and 10 other counties.

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 two 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-1970s, 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 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 it 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.