County Board candidates address issues – Part 1

Published 6:30 am Wednesday, February 3, 2021

With the special election for Mower County Board Commissioner – District 1 being held on Tuesday, Feb. 9, the Herald reached out to the seven candidates to get their responses to the following question: What in your opinion are the two biggest issues currently facing Mower County and, if elected, how would you address them?

Here are responses from candidates Tim Duren, Laura Helle and Michael Langstaff. Look to the Saturday, Feb. 6, issue of the Austin Daily Herald for responses from candidates Ric Berg, Arnie Johnson, Mark Lang and John Mueller.

Tim Duren

Tim Duren

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The budget is a huge thing to be concerned with because you have to stay within your budget. You’re always looking at that to make sure we’re on track. 

You also want to keep that tax levy as close to zero as you possibly can so there is no tax increase for the people of the county. 

The department heads do a good job in not asking for more than what they need. They work hard in maintaining protocol and go above and beyond what they’re asked for. They don’t have to worry about hiring anybody else. From what I’ve seen in the meetings the department heads really work well together.

About me: I was born in Austin and currently reside in Red Rock Township. I am currently on the Pastor’s Cabinet at Bethlehem Free Methodist Church and am a former Austin Chamber ambassador, Austin Country Club board member and past member of the Austin Freedom Fest Committee. I am the current sales manager at Games People Play in Austin and the owner/operator of Duren Concessions at the Minnesota State Fair. I owned Duren Outdoor Advertising for 10 years and am the former owner of Austin Extra Storage. I ran and operated AMCAT Bus Service for Austin and Mower County.

Laura Helle

Laura Helle

The focus for Mower County should be growing the local economy. Mower County should support businesses of all sizes with needed resources, including streamlining regulation when appropriate. Research in economic development shows that the best strategy is to grow local businesses rather than try to attract ‘big fish’ businesses from elsewhere with incentive packages. There is a tremendous opportunity to develop local entrepreneurs especially from our immigrant and refugee communities. 

Mower County also has an opportunity to examine how the criminal justice system is working for the community. Would it be more efficient use of funds to offer rehab to individuals with addiction issues rather than keeping them incarcerated? Could the overall incarceration rate be reduced by investing in transitional housing and other services for those who have completed jail or prison terms? It’s time to explore what is working in other communities and make sure our system is efficient and reflects our values. 

I love our community. I want to be part of its continued growth and success. I believe that local government has an important role to play and elected officials should ensure it is executed efficiently and fairly. Government should work for everyone and should not depend on ‘who you know.’ I believe that creativity, cooperation, and compromise are possible and preferable. We are stronger together and I will enhance Mower County’s ties to the City of Austin.

About me: I just concluded a 4-year term on the Austin City Council. I chose not to run again so that Oballa Oballa could run. He won the election and is increasing the diversity of city leadership by being the first Black person and first refugee on the council.

Michael Langstaff

Michael Langstaff

I feel that there are many issues in Mower County that are in need of change and or improvements, but for now, because of the rise in COVID-19 infections and new strains coming into the USA, we need to work together with all of the large companies and all first responders and medical professionals to coordinate all operations into one interactive operation where all entities are working in the same direction in prevention and management of vaccinations of the people of Mower County.

The small cities of Mower County need more help from the County with infrastructure, cleaning up unsightly and abandoned properties, and the farmers of Mower County getting the Lansing grain elevator project back on track. The County should also work on creating additional capital budgets and expenditures to help keep property and sales taxes low while saving for larger county expenditures in the future.

About me: I was born right here in mower county in 1963, as a young man I was taught by my father when you do something, do it right the first time and don’t cut corners. In the long run doing right the first time will always pay off.

I will always work for the people of Mower County and be fair to the residents and the businesses throughout the County, working on equality for all.

I have taken the Mapleview Fire Department from having the oldest personal protection equipment, SCBAs and turnout gear and acquired a newer fire truck without having to spend any taxpayer money in acquiring these upgrades to the Mapleview Fire Department.

I have been on the Mapleview City Council since 2004 and, with the help from the other council members and mayors through the years of 2004 though 2020, we took Mapleview from a city facing bankruptcy to a city that has a well funded working budget.