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Meeker County Commissioner Dist. 4

Mike Housman, Kinsgston Township

Why are you running for Meeker County Commissioner District 4?

I am running for commissioner to bring fresh leadership to a stagnant county board. Most of the present commissioners have been in township and county government for 20+ years. The trouble is that those in elected office often lose touch with the real world.

New commissioners will require the unelected county managers to explain the “why” behind the way we do things.

In the process, a fresh review can open up opportunities to do things smarter, instead of the same way we have done it for decades.

I have been engaged in the political process for many years, but never as a candidate for office. My grasp of the many complex issues is strong, and I will take a fact-based common sense approach to problem solving.

My farm background, education, 20 years of business experience, and my family values will help me to represent the people of Meeker County.

What do you believe are the top two issues facing Meeker County, and what are your proposed solutions?

The overarching issue for this county is the budget. We cannot continue to grow spending at a pace that exceeds the income growth of the taxpayers. A hard look at how we are allocating the taxpayer dollars in this county is necessary. A “zero-based budget” approach is needed, where all line items are examined and questioned.

This leads into what I believe to be the number-two issue for the county infrastructure. Without adequate funding, our roads are going to deteriorate. Some of the CSAH roads are overdue to be rebuilt or overlaid. This is mostly due to a lack of funding.

The county board needs to work directly with our elected state and federal officials to fix the taxing/funding problem.

Currently, we send large sums of tax dollars to state and federal bureaucracies in the form of income tax, FICA, Medicare, property tax, sales tax, gas and road tax, health care tax, and user fees. Government then bribes the counties, using essentially our money, to return it in the form of programs and mandates that lock us into additional costs when the grant or subsidy expires.

A few lucky cities and counties hit the grant “jackpot” and get our money. Sometimes, we hit the jackpot. This is lottery madness and it needs to stop.

I intend to participate in leading the charge on getting the data analysis done by the state demographer and economist so that there are real numbers that can be used to guide legislation to fund our needs, instead of the latest program or perk.

What specifically can this unit of government do to cut costs and operate efficiently, while still maintaining service to taxpayers?

Until I have access to detailed financial records, the question is difficult to answer and be highly specific. The high-level budget information available to the public shows “buckets of money,” but pinpointing areas of waste and opportunities to improve delivery of service can only happen by “burrowing down” into the details.

That said, I do believe the private sector can often deliver services more efficiently than the public sector.

I also intend to investigate practical partnerships with other local units of government to share services.

Wally Strand, Kingston Township

Why are you running for Meeker County Commissioner District 4?

I have had the privilege of serving as Meeker County Commissioner for six years, and as Kingston Township Supervisor for 15 years. With my experience and knowledge of local government, I want to continue working with all Meeker County departments to establish cost-effective budgets. When grant monies become available, I want to ensure Meeker County receives as many grants as possible, because receiving state and federal grant dollars helps reduce our local tax levies.

I will continue listening to and working for the people of the cities and townships of Dassel and Kingston, and all of Meeker County.

What do you believe are the top two issues facing Meeker County, and what are your proposed solutions?

My top priority is to manage county business with less money coming in from the state, while keeping property taxes down. I will continue looking at areas for cost reductions (i.e. not filling vacancies wherever possible).

Another important issue is the Meeker County State Aid Highways (CSAHs). We currently have about 30 miles of CSAHs in Meeker County that need rebuilding and/or resurfacing, which costs about $500,00 to $700,000 per mile.

Although we receive about $1.9 million per year from the state gas tax for road projects, this funding has remained flat over several years, while costs of rebuilding or resurfacing have almost doubled in the same time.

As you can see, this is a huge budget challenge, but I will do everything possible to keep our roads up to standards.

What specifically can this unit of government do to cut costs and operate efficiently, while still maintaining service to taxpayers?

Unfunded state and federal mandates are a big problem for county government. Either the state or federal government mandates about 80 percent of the services provided by Meeker County.

Counties need to band together to try and convince the state legislators that they should fund their mandates, or stop requiring counties to do them.

Meeker County currently collaborates with about 60 private, non-profit, and other governmental units to provide services.

I will continue to look for ways to provide mandated services for the least amount of money possible, and provide only essential services in a cost-effective manner.

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