Four file for 5th District commissioner’s seat

Published 7:34 am Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It appears Mower County will need to hold a special primary to fill the 5th District seat on the Mower County Board of Commissioners.

As of this morning, four candidates had filed affidavits of candidacy. Filing opened at 8 a.m. yesterday.

Ralph Donkers, Mary Keenan, David Kolb and Marvin Repinski have all filed affidavits of candidacy.

The potential special primary is scheduled for Jan. 20 to cut the field to two candidates for the special election Fab. 10. The primary is not a certainty because candidates can still choose to withdraw their candidacy, said Auditor-Treasurer Doug Groh.

Groh said other people have expressed interest in the position. Candidates need to be a resident of the 5th District for at least 30 days prior to the special election. The seat, left vacant after the death of Commissioner David Tollefson, has to be filled between 30 and 90 days after the becomes vacant, which would be between about Jan. 4 and March 4.

Ralph Donkers, owner of Donkers Hometown Appliance, filed for the seat with the goal of ensuring taxpayers get value: “Spend a dollar wisely,” he said.

Donkers said he always looks for value as a business owner and hopes to continue that as an elected official.

From a county perspective, Donkers said value means ensuring tax dollars are spent wisely and projects — like the Mower County Jail & Justice Center — are done properly.

Donkers said he would aim to continue Tollefson’s work of being a commissioner who works for the needs of the county and the city of Austin.

Donkers, 63, has lived in Austin since 1970 and has been a business owner in the community since 1984. He has never been elected to public office.

Mary Keenan, who served as a Mower County Commissioner from 1983 to 1990, decided to file for the seat because of her experience with the position.

Keenan said she has no intention of running again for the seat in November. However, she said the community needs an experienced candidate to step in and fill the void.

Keenan, 67, said the job is a difficult one to learn, and she said it’d be tough for someone to gain the experience in a short amount of time. She compared the job to a substitute teaching position.

“I have the experience and I can do the job,” she said.

Keenan grew up in Lyle and has lived in Austin for almost 40 years. She currently lives at 2105 Eighth Ave N.W.

Keenan recently retired as a real estate agent from Steichen Realty. She also worked occasionally as a substitute teacher.

Retired carpenter David Kolb, 73, decided to filed because he wanted to get out in the community and get involved. Kolb, who lives at 709 Eighth Ave. N.W., sad he’s lived in Austin for most of his life, except for about 11 years he lived in Stewartville.

Kolb has never served on an elected office.

Retired pastor Marv Repinski is currently serving as pastor of United Methodist Church in Lansing, but it’s not a full-time position. He also works as an adjunct professor at Riverland, where he teaches classes on world religion and humanities.

Repinski, 72, said he chose to run because of the friendship he formed with Tollefson.

He said he worked with Tollefson and recommended the Mower County Jail & Justice Center be built downtown.

Repinski said he’s running to continue Tollefson’s goal to revitalize Austin’s downtown, and added that he’s served on many boards on education and recreation, but he’s not held elected office.

Repinski has lived in Austin for about seven years, and he currently lives at 105 Fourth St S.W.

Filing closes at 5 p.m. on Dec. 30. People interested in filling the vacancy can file an affidavit of candidacy at the Mower County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office in the Mower County Government Center.