Gabrielson takes lessons from first term

Published 6:26 am Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Candidate profile: Tim Gabrielson, for county commissioner

Tim Gabrielson

If there’s one thing Tim Gabrielson has learned in his first term as commissioner, it’s that the job is not a popularity contest.

“You have to have thick skin and a lot of patience,” he said.

He said the job is one where it’s hard — if not impossible — to make everyone happy. Gabrielson said many people want to keep their services, but they want to reduce taxes, too.

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But along with his first term, the 63-year-old commissioner said he has experience working with people and their problems from years serving as an insurance agent with Farmers Insurance.

“You’re always helping solve problems,” Gabrielson said. “You listen to what their needs are; you do what you can then.”

Gabrielson is seeking a second term in District 1, where he is being challenged by James Williams and Paul Fischer.

After attending county board meetings for more than a year before his first run, Gabrielson said he was well-prepared for the job when he took office. However, he has still learned a lot in his first term. Gabrielson said the job is far more than three meetings a month, noting there’s more likely 13 to 18 meeting each month for all the committees each commissioner serves on.

“You have to be very flexible in your schedule,” he said.

Gabrielson noted he came into office at a challenging time: Not only was the county in the early stages of building its new jail, it was also a high-point of the financial crisis. And, he said, the biggest portion of a commissioner’s job is managing money.

“When times are tough, there’s a lot more demand,” Gabrielson said. That’s one reason Gabrielson said he and the board are looking into the Southern Minnesota Human Services Redesign efforts.

Though the job hasn’t been easy, Gabrielson said, he has been pleased with the small steps taken by the board.

“It’s been a challenge, but it’s satisfying when I can see us making progress for the people of the county,” he said.

The change isn’t overnight, as Gabrielson said the board has taken many little steps to improve taxes and other issues.

“You don’t turn the ship around the corner; it’s gradual,” Gabrielson said.

Gabrielson said he’s been fortunate to work with commissioners willing to work together and get things done.

“We don’t always agree on everything — and we shouldn’t — but in the end, we have to compromise for the good of the county,” he said.

Along with having thick skin, Gabrielson had other words of advice for commissioner hopefuls: Don’t have a strong agenda, because you work for the people and no commissioner can accomplish work on his or her own.