Herald Journal - Voters' Guide 2010
Herald Journal / Dassel-Cokato Enterprise Dispatch / Delano Herald Journal

Meeker County Commissioner - Dist. 3

Two people have filed for Meeker County Commissioner positions in District 3, Tim Benoit and Amy Wilde.

Tim Benoit

Why are you running for this particular office?

I am running to help keep the county’s budget manageable, and to ensure Meeker County doesn’t become enslaved to St. Paul and Washington DC.

The county board’s decision to embrace the health care legislation of the House and Senate last fall pushed me to get involved.

Meeker County will need to closely examine budget items to see where we can work smarter, not harder. Meeker County will need to examine what services it is responsible for by charter or by Constitution. There is no reason for any unit of government to go beyond its defined obligations. In the current economic climate, this is going to be paramount.

I would apply good business practices to the job of county commissioner. Since having the opportunity to visit with many of the taxpayers in District 3, I have also discovered that transparency in local government has been neglected, and I will work to shine the light of truth where it has been missing.

If we need to make budget changes, they need to be made in an orderly fashion, making sure knee-jerk decisions are not made, or alienating those who would be affected by any budget changes.

Meeker County should not be competing with the private sector when it comes to offering services. This area of the budget will also need examination.

Integrity, honesty, and the ability to listen and respond when people have ideas and questions is really important and necessary when serving the public as county commissioner.

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

Meeker County’s budget is one issue that will need to be addressed.

County government should be partnering with the private sector in finding solutions to budget problems that were once thought only the government can solve, when, in fact, history has proven time and time again, problems are solved by the private sector many more times than they are by government and at a far lower price tag.

The State of Minnesota, with its nearly $8 billion budget deficit, will be trying anything to shift the burden of balancing the budget from their books to that of local governments and the taxpayers.

I can see someone or some group wanting Meeker County to increase taxes to balance its budget. If it comes down to that, I would be hard pressed to go along with any increase in mill rates or taxes of any kind during these hard economic times.

Someone needs to stand up and ask, “How is the taxpayer going to benefit from any increase in government spending?” No one can spend their way to prosperity.

Other issues include Meeker County getting out of the real estate business. The county can no longer afford to maintain all of the low-income housing it has placed itself in charge of.

Meeker County fulfilled its role in developing low-income housing units, but now it needs to get these off of the county’s books and into the hands of real estate management companies who have experience in operating these types of properties.

According to recent audits, Meeker County’s low-income housing units are operating in a sea of red ink, and there is not enough money to maintain these properties.

Much of the money Meeker County is spending on trying to maintain these low-income housing units is leaving the county short for maintaining our county’s ditches that are growing full of trees, gravel roads that are not being maintained, and a failure to properly schedule maintenance of the county’s infrastructure.

For these issues, I will work to make sure that Meeker County does not exceed its responsibility in providing services. I will work to get Meeker County out of the real estate business it is currently in.

I will fight tooth and nail to see to it that the Dassel Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) is not merged with the Meeker County Economic Development Authority (EDA). These residents have the right to take care of themselves and to remain autonomous.

I will also work to regain Meeker County’s status as being a great place to bid a road-building job. Meeker County’s reputation with construction companies is not what it once was. That hurts all taxpayers, when fewer vendors are bidding work here due to past problems.

Why should you be elected?

As county commissioner, I will be a listener, as well as someone asking the tough questions.

We do need to partner with other units of government, but also need to demand integrity and intellectual honesty of all in the public sector, just as we expect in the private sector.

I would also draw on a larger circle of resources for information and solutions to issues that we will be facing in the future. I can’t say it enough – bring transparency of county board business and invite residents to meetings, not shout them down when they show up.

This election is not about me, it is about all of the people in Meeker County.

Amy Wilde

Why are you running for Meeker County Commissioner?

I am the present commissioner, and have been encouraged to seek another term.

Goals accomplished include five county road improvements in eastern Meeker County, more-effective managed care for local people who are enrolled in state health programs, improvements at several county parks, better library service, and updated medical, law enforcement, and highway facilities.

We are still working on several goals, which I would like to help complete.

I am in good health and continue to have enthusiasm for the job.

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

1. The economy. Meeker County had to adopt a smaller budget, due to the recession. It has been, and will continue to be, challenging to meet the needs with fewer resources.

County staff have already reorganized departments and job duties and made concessions to deal with sharp declines in the funds the state sends us to deliver required state and federal programs.

Energy audits have reduced fuel consumption. We’ve taken advantage of grants to update service – approximately $1 million in public safety communications alone.

We’ve sometimes saved money by outsourcing work, and other times by bringing expensive contracted work in-house.

More cooperation with cities and surrounding counties is taking place. I plan to explore efforts to further reduce duplicative administration and overlapping service.

Despite greater demand for some services, the county board addressed the recession and state cuts by budgeting $1 million less this year than we spent in 2009, and we are on target to reach that goal.

More cuts lie ahead for 2011, so even greater efficiency will be needed.

A basic infrastructure of safe roads, communications, law enforcement, property services, licensing, public health, and other core functions must be maintained, but citizens may notice some delays in service.

The county must also encourage responsible local business expansion, because the most effective “welfare” is a good job.

The new, affordable health coverage project I helped bring to the county may encourage small business start-ups.

2. Healthcare. Healthcare inflation is the biggest cost-driver in Meeker County. We struggle with increased costs, not only for low-income and disabled citizens who require government subsidies, but for county employees.

We are not sure how “healthcare homes” and other state reforms will actually work in a rural environment.

Regardless of differing opinions about federal health reform, it is here and includes a number of potential benefits for counties and their residents. I am working to help our county take advantage of new public health funding. There are also funds to assist local hospitals in developing electronic medical records.

Under a unique new pilot project, small businesses and farms in Meeker County which do not presently offer employee health benefits have the opportunity to obtain coverage for an average of $295 per adult, per month, beginning Jan. 1, 2011.

Learning the details of health care policy takes years. I’ve sought to bring more sense to a fragmented system and am trying to reduce the paperwork burden on providers. Greater flexibility is needed from the state legislature and Congress. A knowledgeable commissioner is in a good position to get this done.

Why should you be elected?

Our county needs proven leadership. Over the years, I have been an officer on regional boards and helped obtain state and national awards for Meeker County.

Our multi-county Medicaid program ranked first or second in the state the past three years, and has received a national award.

Meeker topped all 87 counties in the legislative auditor’s human services report; and a recent jail inspection earned exceptionally high marks. This has been done despite Meeker’s low tax rate, in the bottom one-third of Minnesota counties.

I have assisted the county board in trimming spending, by finding greater efficiencies in service delivery.

As a long-time community volunteer, I am familiar with the people and issues of District 3. Community needs, not rigid ideology, are foremost in my mind.

© Herald Journal Publishing, Inc.