Baldus, Sparks to face of in District 4
Published 6:39 pm Friday, June 10, 2022
The Mower County Board of Commissioners District 4 race will have a familiar look this year.
Current Board Chair Jeff Baldus is up for reelection and running against him will be former state senator Dan Sparks.
Baldus is currently in his first term on the board and is looking forward to hopefully continuing the trend of serving Mower County.
“I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to serve the public,” Baldus said. “Running a county is a huge thing and I’m learning. I don’t know it all. I’m continually learning more and more about the county.”
Baldus said that he has taken a keen interest in the various departments of the county as well as enjoying taking steps necessary to help reduce cost burdens on those in the county.
The last two budget cycles the county has been able to effetely keep a rise in the county levy to a minimum.
“I just really have enjoyed the people I’ve worked with, enjoyed learning, enjoyed just being a part of cutting corners, saving money,” Baldus said. “We’re trying to be fiscally responsible. That’s been the big thing with everything we’ve dealt with. It’s been a challenging piece.”
While Baldus said he wants to continue with the work of keeping taxes lower, another area he recognizes that needs attention is the mental health crisis.
Not only is it a burden on state and federal entities, it’s also having a big affect in the county.
“Mental health is becoming a huge piece, not just in our county but in our society,” he said. “It’s beyond the county, even beyond the state. It’s something at the federal level that has to look at spending more dollars on the mental health situation.”
Baldus also noted how well the county has operated in recent years, a trend he wants to see continue.
“The appreciation for our employees and the growth we really have seen has been a joy,” Baldus said. “I’ve seen some real growth in employees as far as learning and leadership.”
With the recent growth of business in Austin, including Nu-Tek, Baldus said the county has a vested interest in keeping that going as well.
“The business development, that’s what we’re really keeping an eye on and helping to foster, more so now than ever,” Baldus said. “It’s a great way to increase the tax base without passing it to the individual.”
Meanwhile, Sparks is hoping to make use of existing connections he’s made in St. Paul over the years in an effort to bring more attention to Mower County.
Sparks served 18 years over the course of five terms in the state Senate before being defeated by Gene Dornink in 2020.
However, Sparks said he’s got more in him and is ready to serve at the local level.
“I think after visiting with a lot of friends and neighbors, they urged me to run for the commission seat,” Sparks said. “I talked to my wife, talked to my family and we made the decision to file. I think I have a good story to tell.”
In particular, Sparks said he really wants to take more control out of state hands when it comes to area concerns.
“I want to bring control back to the local level,” he said. “I’m a homegrown, experienced leader with a strong voice in the district and city. I have those relationships in place to get things done.”
He also pointed to his experience at being part of the budgeting process for an entire state. Sparks said that he could use that experience on the local level as well as ensuring Mower County receives a fair shot from the state legislature.
“From my time in the state senate I helped set the budget for all 87 counties in the state,” he said. “I’m looking at that just on a smaller level. I can get into all of those doors and fight hard to receive a fair share and funding from the state.”
Sparks said the decisions made on the county level affects all of the people in the area. He wants to represent those values as best he can.
“I share the values of these people,” Sparks said. “The most important thing is the decision I make doesn’t affect just the voters, but family, neighbors and those I’ve grown up with during my life.”