County holds out for elections

Published 7:15 am Monday, November 1, 2010

Mower County has decisions to make, but local leaders are waiting for answers from Tuesday’s elections before the work can be done.

“We’re almost in a holding pattern on some of these big issues,” said Mower County Coordinator Craig Oscarson.

The future of the offices for Health of Human Services depends greatly on the election. Not only are three county board seats up for election, but changes at the state level could sway future talks about regionalizing the services.

Email newsletter signup

With the state waiting for answers about who will be their local, state and national elected leaders in the coming years, many officials are waiting for answers.

Local Elections

With David Hillier running for re-election against Jerry Reinartz in commissioner District 3 and Tony Bennett challenging Dick Lang in Commissioner District 4 (5th District Commissioner Mike Ankeny is running unopposed.) the county board has put off non-pressing business until a new board is in place.

“Anything that becomes a significant financial issue or policy issue generally gets put on hold, and appropriately so,” he said. “The board has honorable to incoming commissioners, and they don’t want to make a decision that over the next two to four years that may have to be reversed.”

Rather than beginning a project with the risk of an election affecting something that was decided by a split decision, Oscarson said the board often chooses patience.

“Unless it’s a life or death issues or an emergency, let’s sit on it and then we’ll have real good debate after the election,” Oscarson said.

If new commissioners are elected, Oscarson said the issue will be tabled until close to summer.

“That’ll give the board an opportunity to kind of figure out who they are,” Oscarson said.

Despite the results of the election, Oscarson said he’s planning a board retreat in the coming months. That retreat would help each board member develop a vision and direction for county services, Oscarson said.

“Then we’d kind of have a clue what we’re really here for,” Oscarson said.

In order for new commissioners to get seasoned, they’ll meet with department heads to learn about the services offered in the county. The Minnesota Association of Counties also puts on a training session for new commissioners.

Even if Hillier and Lang are re-elected, there will be a retreat. Oscarson it’s been some time since the last retreat, and it’d give Commissioner Mike Ankeny and Commissioner Tim Gabrielson a chance to learn more since they’re still somewhat new.

Typically, the first section of the retreat is set aside for county department heads, and the second part of the day is for board members to talk about their goals and objectives.

State Elections

Along with waiting for answers to local races, the county is waiting to see what happens on the state level.

The race for governor, as well as the races in the Minnesota Senate and House, will also shape the immediate future of county government.

“All of a sudden if there’s a big change at the state and federal level, that could affect some of the services we provide,” Oscarson said. “Some of the services might stay the same. Some of the services might get reduced.”

Some change may be welcomed by county officials, as Oscarson voiced displeasure with recent cuts to County Program Aid without reform to county mandates.

“We’ve been disappointed in the current governor and Legislature in many ways,” Oscarson said.

Failure to reform mandates puts an extra burden on cities, counties and schools when aid is cut.

With Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer stating that he’d balance part of the budget by cutting Local Government Aid and CPA, Oscarson said he’d hope Emmer would become a leader in mandate reform rather than a leader of “tax shifting.”

Oscarson said Independence Party candidate Tom Horner’s lieutenant governor, Jim Mulder, comes from a county background. Democrat Mark Dayton has been more focused on education.

“Whoever gets elected I think has to take the lead and become a real leader instead of just a figure head,” Oscarson said.