Seven file in 5th District race

Published 7:00 am Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mower County is a step closer in filling the vacant 5th District seat on the Mower County Board of Commissioners, as the period to file for the seat closed yesterday at 5 p.m.

Derek Hyland was the final candidate to file an affidavit of candidacy for the vacancy, bringing the number of candidates to seven.

Mike Ankeny, Ralph Donkers, Ron Felten, Mary Keenan, David Kolb and Marvin Repinski also filed affidavits of candidacy.

The special primary is scheduled for Jan. 20 to cut the field to two candidates for the special election Feb. 10. Candidates have until 5 p.m. Thursday to withdraw their candidacy, said Auditor-Treasurer Doug Groh.

None of the candidates plan to extensively campaign, largely because of the short amount of time before the election. Many of the candidates said they will likely purchase advertisements through area media outlets.

Mike Ankeny, 52, 102 22nd St. N.W.

Ankeny owns Ankeny’s Mini Mart No. 5, Ankeny’s Dairy Foods and Budget Oil Company. He decided to run because he thought he could bring new ideas to the board.

Ankeny, an area businessman of more than 30 years, said he’d bring the practical and common sense approach he uses to run his businesses to the role of county commissioner.

“I think running a county or whatever is basically like running a business,” Ankeny said. You’ve got budgets and everything else you deal with and issues that come up.

Ankeny said it’s not his goal to make sweeping changes to the board; however, he hopes to bring a fresh opinion and mindset.

I just think sometimes a person can step forward and do their part for the community, Ankeny said.

The 5th District includes portions of southwest and northwest Austin, and Ankeny said he’d bring the city mindset to the role.

Ralph Donkers, 63, 1101 First Ave. S.W.

Donkers, owner of Donkers Hometown Appliance, filed for the seat with the goal of ensuring taxpayers get value.

“It’s all about making sure the taxpayers have value for the money they spend,” he said. “That’s how I run my business. I make sure that things work right.”

Donkers said this approach will have to be used as the county determines the best course of action when the Human Services lease expires at Oak Park Mall.

Donkers stressed the commissioners cant work alone, as he said he hopes the county can cooperate with the city of Austin and all the towns in the county.

“You cannot push a chain, you have to kind of pull it along nice and easy,” Donkers said. “If you try pushing people, it’s not going to go. Cooperation is the number one word there.”

If each body of government and official knows their role, then the government can function efficiently, Donkers said.

Ron Felten, 51, 602 Sixth Ave. S.W.

Felten, who said he’s thought about running for commissioner in the past, said he decided to run to expand on his experience with the Austin Utility Board.

His second term ends in 2010, and he’d resign from the utility board if elected, he said.

While Felten admitted he’ll need to learn a lot about serving as a commissioner, he said he has a strong base of knowledge and experience through his time on the Austin Utility Board.

“I do know how the system operates,” Felten said. “It does take a little bit of time to learn that: what you can do, where you can be effective and where you cant there are things you really should just stay out of as a board member.”

Felten, 51, served on the Austin Fire Department for about 16 years, spending most of that time as the city fire marshal. He currently sells real estate for Fawver Agency Real Estate.

Although he didn’t say whether or not he supported the move to build the jail and justice center, Felten said he saw the county needed to upgrade the jail through his experience as fire marshal.

Derek Hyland, 26, 2701 Second Ave. N.W.

Hyland, 26, said he decided to run partly because diversity is good in politics, and he’d bring a unique perspective to the board because of his age.

I just wanted to bring a younger perspective or a different view to the board, he said.

Hyland owns H&L Brothers Inc., a construction company with his brother-in-law, Mark Lang. Hyland’s father-in-law, Dick Lang, is the 4th District commissioner.

Through his experience in construction, Hyland said he has experience with the housing market and rural development.

Tax increases are one key concern to Hyland, who said taxes are increasing too quickly. Had he been a commissioner, Hyland said he would have urged the board to wait to build the Mower County Jail and Justice Center until the economy stabilized.

Hyland grew up in Austin and moved back with his wife and 2-year-old son a few years ago.

“I own a business. She owns a business now,” Hyland said. “We’re going to be here for the long haul, so were just looking to invest in the community that were going to live in.

Hyland has never been elected to public office.”

Mary Keenan, 67, 2105 Eighth Ave. N.W.

Keenan, a retired real estate agent, served as commissioner from 1983-1990. She decided to run because she has the experience to finish out the term. She said she doesn’t plan to run after the term expires and compared her plans to that of a substitute teacher.

I just feel like its a community service, she said.

Keenan described the job of a commissioner as a tough one to learn. Not only does she have experience working with human services, the issues facing the smaller towns in the community, she also said she knows a commissioners duties.

“When people think they can go in and change a lot of things, they don’t realize the constraints on the commissioners, the constraints that the state puts on them because we really are an arm of the state government,” she said.

Keenan said balancing the budget will continue to be a key issue as the state faces a budget deficit. The commissioners will have to continue making difficult choices in determining which projects and groups to fund and which can be cut, she said.

David Kolb, 73, 709 Eighth Ave. N.W.

Kolb, a retired carpenter, described his decision to file as a spur of the moment decision. He filed because he wanted to get out in the community and get involved, he said.

While he said he doesn’t have all the answers, Kolb said he’d work to learn the role and find the best solutions.

It’s like being on a jury, Kolb said. You dive into the facts, try to separate fact from fiction to make a decision based on fact.

Kolb described himself as a collector and a tinkerer, and said he likes to learn about things by taking them apart and putting them back together to see what makes things tick.

Through these hobbies and work as a carpenter, Kolb said he likes to learn. He said this is a mentality that would likely translate to the role of county commissioner.

In a society he described as a throw away society, Kolb said he looks to learn about things and then fix them.

“I know there’s a lot of work involved in these things,” he said. “I’m not afraid of work. … Sitting around doing nothing, that’s the tough part.”

Marvin Repinski, 72, 1005 Fourth St. S.W.

One issue that inspired retired pastor Marvin Repinski to run for the role is his desire to revitalize downtown Austin. By keeping the new Mower County Jail & Justice Center downtown, businesses and restaurants downtown, many of which are locally owned, will benefit from the traffic of the new building, he said.

“Austin has a good future for downtown that continues a proud heritage,” Repinski said. “My take on it … without the government center being down there, this would be a frail and needy downtown area.”

Repinski said he sees Austin in a transitional period as the number of minorities living in Austin has increased, and he experienced similar changes when he served churches around Minnesota.

“I’m deeply committed, and it’s a moral and theological commitment that I have, to build a community where the citizens have opportunity, and the citizens can live in peace especially to have dialogue with one another,” he said.

Even if he isn’t elected to the 5th District seat, Repinski said he hopes to work with the candidate who’s elected, and he hopes the other candidates will do the same.