Gabrielson, Williams move on in Mower County District 1
Published 10:35 pm Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Incumbent Commissioner Tim Gabrielson and challenger James Williams will square off in the Nov. 8 General Election for the District 1 seat on the Mower County Board.
Gabrielson, 66, captured 50.89 percent of the vote — or 143 votes — for a commanding primary win. Williams, however, narrowly beat Dan Vermilyea to move on. Williams, 33, received 71 votes, or 25.27 percent, to Vermilyea’s 67, or 23.84 percent.
For Gabrielson, he’s hoping to put the Nov. 8 election behind him to continue working hard for the county.
Email newsletter signup
“I’ll continue to do the job that I’ve been doing, which I’m proud of my record,” Gabrielson said. “I’ve gotten a lot of things done and helped a lot of people”
However, Gabrielson admitted he didn’t have a great feeling heading into primary night because of expected low turnouts. Gabrielson voted and visited the Mower County Fair Tuesday with an “I Voted” sticker and told of many people asking what he voted for before, saying they didn’t vote Tuesday but would vote for him in November.
“Most people had no idea,” he said of the primary.
After narrowly beating out Vermilyea, Williams also said it’s hard to take much away from the results with so few voters from Tuesday.
“There’s less than 300 people that voted,” he said. “There’s not much to take from those results.”
Williams said if he’s going to have a chance, more people will need to be interested in the process. He’s had a few people reach out to him to talk to him on issues and he’s hoping to generate more interest moving forward.
“I’m hoping that people will start to take a bit more notice that there is a county commissioner race and ask some questions,” he said.
Looking ahead, Gabrielson plans to continue concentrating on issues currently facing the county. He and fellow Commissioner Polly Glynn are working on the 2017 budget as part of the finance committee, which is proving complicated.
“It’s going to be a very challenging year,” he said.
He said they’re facing many challenges in crafting the budget due to needs stemming from crimes, courts, mental health and several other issues.
“It’s never ending,” he said of the needs and challenges. “It’s not like it used to be, I’ll tell you that.”
Gabrielson said he’ll continue pushing the state to support county programs and to act on things like road and bridge funding; however, he said it’s uncommon for the state to pass adequate and timely funding for such projects. That often leaves the county looking out for its own interests.
“Of course, we’re not getting the help from the state like we should,” he said. “We have to take care of ourselves.”
On the other hand, Williams filed because he is unhappy with the direction of the county board and he wants to make a change and bring a new way of thinking to the board.
He used the recently-approved Austin Housing Initiative — a tax abatement supported by the city of Austin, Austin Public Schools and the county — as one example, noting he thinks there are things the county should just stay out of.
“The county does not need to be picking and choosing the winners and losers of our local housing market,” he said, adding he thinks it could be harmful over the long term.
Likewise, he argued the county should be cautious when getting involved with things like Vision 2020.
He also referenced the county’s recent discussions toward switching to a true assessor system where the Mower County Assessors Office would handle all assessments instead of letting cities and townships deal with assessors on an individual basis.
While he said he can see the reasoning for the discussions as some townships haven’t completed assessments in an accurate and timely manner, but he wants the county to do a better job of explaining other sides of the issue.
He argued the true assessor system could equate to a tax shift with rural residents paying more of the taxes.
Williams also said he’d like to be more aggressive in working with other counties to urge the state to address shortfalls in transportation funding.
“I would definitely prioritize getting in touch with other counties,” he said. “I know we’re not the only county that feels like we’re being neglected by the state.”
Looking toward November, neither candidate is planning an aggressive campaign.
Gabrielson plans to talk with people as he’s out and about. Gabrielson, a retired Farmer’s Insurance Agent, said he’s almost always out around town in his free time and has many people approach him to talk about county issues, which he encourages.
“I’m very open,” he said. “I meet people constantly because I’m always up and about.”
He also reminded people that Mower County is heavily dependent on agriculture, so he’ll be discussion the issues facing farmers.
Gabrielson will put some campaign signs out, but likely not until around October, so they don’t inconvenience his supporters in their yards.
Williams plans to run a simple campaign, as he doesn’t plan to fundraise and doesn’t want to put out political signs.
“It’s not going to be an expensive campaign,” he said.
He’ll share his opinions on his Facebook page and meet with people around the community and over coffee.
In his free time, Williams likes to spend time on his family farm and working on prairie restorations. He is self-employed and lives in rural Brownsdale.