The Minnesota Primary Election is Tuesday, Aug. 14. Two seats up for election on the Polk County?Board of Commissioners, in Districts 3 and 5, have attracted more than two candidates, meaning some candidates need to be eliminated from the race in the primary, prior to the general election in November. The Times checks in with the handful of candidates seeking the hotly contested District 3 seat held by Bill Montague, who’s not seeking another term.
The following Q & A's were answered by the five District 3 candidates, all Crookston residents: Dean Adams, Clayton Briggs, Ray Ecklund, Nick Nicholas and Gerald "Jerry" Reitmeier.
Q: First of all, some background info.
Adams: I am a self-employed contractor, own rental properties, and own and operate a hobby farm with my family and have a variety of animals. I am a high school graduate and a 2012 Graduate with Heating and Ventilation Air Conditioning Diploma. I am married to Sheryl for 17 years, and we have four children: three are 15-year-old triplets, Serenity, Roman, Kazmir and our youngest child, Precious, is 14 years old. We currently live on a farm in Crookston Township, and I have been a resident of District 3 for 20 years.
Briggs: I am a lifelong resident of Crookston/Polk County. My wife Mary and I have been married for 38 years. Mary works at Altru Clinic in Crookston. We have two children, our son Lee and his wife Liz live in Grand Forks, they have two children Madison, 9 and Rhys, 2 1/2. Daughter Tiffany lives in Crookston, she has two daughters Meleah, 11 and Emma, 8.
Currently I am a Minnesota Residential Licensed Contractor and Owner of Clayton L. Briggs Construction. I am a Registered MN Residential Energy Auditor and I am Lead Paint Certified. My wife and I also own several Rental Properties in Crookston. I worked in Law Enforcement in Crookston from 1988 to 2004, when I had to retired due to injuries received in the line of duty. I began my Law Enforcement career in 1982 as a Crookston Police Reserve Officer while attending Law Enforcement classes at Northland Community College in Thief River Falls. After graduating with an Associates Degree in Law Enforcement, becoming a Minnesota Licensed Police Officer in 1984, I worked part-time at the University of Minnesota, Crookston as an officer. In May 1985 I was hired as a Deputy in Burke County, Bowbells, ND until January of 1987. In April of 1988 I was hired as a Part-time Deputy for Polk County Sheriff's Dept. and in September, 1988 I was hired by the City of Crookston as a full-time Police Officer. I continued to work as a part-time deputy until 1993. I was the Crookston Police Dept. School Resource Officer from 2000-2003. After retiring I returned to school, receiving an Associates Degree/Diploma in Computerized Drafting and a Diploma in Computer Animation and Photoshop. I also have a Diploma in Construction Trades.
Page 2 of 6 - Ecklund: I was born and raised in southeast Minneapolis not far from the University of Minnesota. I am married to Pam and have three children, Mark, Dawn, and Mike, and five grandchildren. I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1959; my first job was with the City of Minneapolis as a Recreation Leader. After one year, I was promoted to Center Director at Logan Park. I worked for Minneapolis for five years and then took the position as Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation in the City of Brooklyn Center. After five years of service in Brooklyn Center, I was hired as the first full-time Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Crookston. I organized and developed the Department for the City. The accomplishment that I am most proud of is Highland Park; I applied for a grant and was successful, then designed the final layout. I was asked to become City Administrator in 1972 and retired in 2004. I have lived here in Crookston in the same house for 42 years.
Nicholas: I have lived in Polk County for nearly 20 years. During this time, Denise, my wife of 38 years, and I raised four children – Travis (wife Jamie and children Hunter and Halle), Lauralee Tupa (husband Jay and son Nicholas), Michael and Benjamin. We have truly enjoyed raising our children and working in Polk County. I am the CFO at DEE, Inc. in Crookston since 1993; I enjoy my work and the people I work with.
Reitmeier: I am 62 years old and a life long resident of Polk County. I was born and raised right here in Crookston. My wife Suzanne and I have been married for 42 years and have lived and raised our family at our current home just east of Crookston. We have a son Jeremy, who operated J. & J. Performance Auto, the family business in Crookston. Our daughter Sarah is a social worker for the State of Minnesota in Moorhead. We have three grandchildren, Jeremy Mark, Kali and Jeran.
Q: What made you decide to run for commissioner?
Adams: I have an interest in grass roots government, and I believe in fair and honest representation. I am at the point in my life where I can dedicate the necessary time to the office of Polk County Commissioner and the people I would represent.
Briggs: I have always had an interest in politics, and I believe that the residents of District 3 deserve to have a full-time commissioner.
Ecklund: With my background in Government service I feel I could bring much to the citizens of Polk County as a Commissioner. I miss being directly involved with the important decisions and planning that needs to be done. If Polk County is to remain a viable and healthy county, it needs good leadership, and I feel I could provide it. I am presently the Chairman of the City Planning Commission. As City Administration, many tough decisions had to be made and I feel I was able to meet the challenges. I would welcome the chance to address them as County Commissioner.
Page 3 of 6 - Nicholas: On Dec. 31 of this year, I will complete 10 years with the Crookston School Board. I decided not to seek another term. When I heard Bill Montague was retiring, I decided to run for the County Commission seat because, as a longtime resident of Polk County, I find it hard to not be involved in the decision making process for the place we call home. I have a vested interest in seeing a sustainable county government that is fiscally responsible, supports county services, and supports economic development. I think the position of County Commissioner would be a great way to serve the county and its residents who have done so much for me and my family.
Reitmeier: I ran for this position 4 years ago because I felt I had the background and experience to balance the business of managing Polk County with looking out for the best interests of its residents. The past 4 years have only added to my experience and fueled the desire to take on the challenges of this position.
Q: What do you see as the top three priorities for the county to work on in the couple of years?
Adams: 1) I want to keep Polk County on a strong financial and stable budget.
2) I want to ensure our law enforcement coverage stays strong and expand it in the future, if needed.
3) I will work to ensure that our citizens’ concerns are fulfilled and that the State and Federal requirements of our County operations run smoothly.
Briggs: 1) Technology is something that is growing, planning for the future information technology needs of Polk County is a primary concern. In order to remain on the cutting edge of service delivery, it is essential that we not become complacent in our use and understanding of technology. We need to look for innovative ways to continually improve our service through information technology.
2) We need to focus on keeping costs down for Social Services but not eliminating services that would be needed for the elderly in nursing homes who would greatly need the services.
3) Trying to maintain overall county services without cutting staff or good service to the public is another priority.
Ecklund: 1) Polk County is primarily an agricultural county; with that in mind, I think one of the important issues for the Commissioners is to find ways to strengthen this industry. Everyone benefits when our farm economy succeeds, from the shop keepers downtown to the manufacturing and merchants in the cities, the implement dealers and the entire citizenship of Polk County. We need to lobby our Federal Legislators as well as those in St. Paul. I have the background to lobby on behalf of our farmers and agricultural community. I have spent a great deal of time lobbying for local government aid and other issues with our legislators in St. Paul.
Page 4 of 6 - 2) The economic health of the County is an extremely important issue in these times of economic crises; we need to be careful concerning how and why we spend the taxpayer's money. We need to look to the future and successfully anticipate the financial needs of the County. Careful budgeting will be crucial.
3) An important ingredient to any successful organization is the people who do the day to day work. With this in mind, I think it is critical that the Commissioners support and encourage excellence from the staff at the court house as well as the employees out in the field. Teamwork is essential to success and all of the County employees as well as the County Commissioners need to work as a team.
Nicholas: 1) Economic development
2) Fiscal responsibility (budget and tax levy)
3) Maintain current county services in a cost efficient manner
Reitmeier: 1) We really need to put more effort into the combining of services between government entities. An example of how well this can work is the salt shed that was recently built by the State of Minnesota, Polk County and the City of Crookston. They all share in one facility, eliminating the need for duplication and ultimately saving tax dollars for everyone.
2) The State of Minnesota, the counties, and the townships all realize that we have a problem with our roads and infrastructure. Most, if not all of our roads are never designed to carry the weight of the traffic they are exposed to today. The trucks and equipment are getting larger and heavier all the time and our roads can't possibly stand up to this continued use. This is going to be a difficult problem to deal with, but it has to be addressed before our roads are damaged beyond repair.
3) Streamlining county government. In recent years there have been several long time county employees that have retired and there are more in the not-too-distant future. Some of these positions have been changed or combined with other positions in an effort to save money. Polk County has a S55 million budget and over 300 employees. With the never ending cuts to State and Federal aid, working on the budget and trying to cut expenses without cutting services will be a constant priority.
Q: What qualifications/experience would you bring to the board?
Adams: I have been attending Commissioners’ Board meetings and meeting with department heads to educate myself as to the issues they are facing. One of the County’s biggest issues at this time is upgrading the current 911 system. I believe with my background in the communications industry, I would be a valuable asset to the Board in approaching the 911 system and all the future communications issues. I also bring to the table my many years of being a small business owner and operating within a budget, and I would hold the County department heads accountable to the budget.
Page 5 of 6 - Briggs: I have eighteen years experience as a Law Enforcement officer, in that time I have dealt with the public on several different levels. I have served on the Polk County Historical Society Board for 14 years-8 years as President. I enjoy meeting new people and taking on new challenges.
Ecklund: I have 51 years of Government service and have received numerous awards over the years both as a City employee and awards on a State wide level. I am an Ambassador for the League of Minnesota Cities and travel all over northwest Minnesota helping cities solve problems, putting on workshops, and disseminating League information. I was one of five finalists to be interviewed for the position of City Manager for the City of Grand Forks. This position was advertised nation wide and had 70 applicants, so I feel that this attests to my qualifications.
Nicholas: I have served on various boards in the city of Crookston including 10 years on the Crookston School Board. Along with this experience I have 38 years of experience in finance, including serving as the CFO of DEE, Inc. Through these positions and experiences I have gained extensive knowledge in risk management, budgeting, union negotiations, service co-ops, and private and public funding. These experiences have given me knowledge with budgets comparable in size to the county budget, understanding how service co-ops work in relation to employee benefits administration, I understand how public organizations are funded and the challenge of mandates without funding or reduced funding, and working in both union and non-union environments.
Reitmeier: I have 25 years of experience owning and operating a small business in Polk County. Also, I have 22 years of employment with the Crookston Township, which has given me the opportunity to work with State and Federal Emergency Management personnel, State Legislators, engineers and contractors. I have completed a number of University of Minnesota courses on road maintenance and design, as well as 22 years of maintaining township roads and ditches.
I have handled the bidding, purchasing of equipment, gravel and the contracting of infrastructure repair. With the Polk County Highway Dept. comprising a large portion of the county budget, I believe my work experience will be a valuable asset to the county board.
To be an effective member of any board is having the ability to work together and yet think for yourself, allowing you to make decisions that are in the best interest of everyone involved. I have served on a variety of boards for most of my adult life and am currently a board member and president of the West Polk County Deer Hunters Association.
Q: Why do you feel you are the best man for the job?
Adams: I am a young energetic and hard-working person who has a desire to see Polk County thrive for the future. I will put my life and business experiences to work for you, ask questions, and then learn more how our county operates. I want to see our Polk County Board of Commissioners work smart and stand firm on issues facing the residents of Polk County.
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I think the most important thing a commissioner does is stay in touch with his constituents. I will work to maintain and improve the quality of life in Polk County.
Briggs: I would be dedicated, honest, hardworking Polk County Commissioner. I would do my best to represent District 3 and bring questions or problems to the board. I would be your full-time Polk County Commissioner.
Ecklund: I feel that I have a proven record of success; I am a very positive person who sets goals and is forward thinking, as we must prepare for the future. I believe strongly in the ability to work as a team and to cooperate with all of those serving the County. Under my watch as City Administrator here in Crookston, we developed a very successful and beautiful City, one that we can all be proud of.
Nicholas: I believe my balanced perspective and experiences in both public and private sectors would make me a strong candidate for Polk County Commissioner. I genuinely care about the people in this county and I want to help create solutions for any problems and continue with policies that are currently in place and working well. I would be honored to serve at the Polk County Commissioner for District 3 and would appreciate your vote.
Reitmeier: It takes a special kind of person to work for the public. I doubt that anyone knows better than I do the criticism you open yourself up to as a public servant. You have to have the ability to make difficult decisions and then stand up and explain your reasons for making those decisions, whetehr they were popular or not. Most of all, you have to have the desire to listen to and represent the residents of Polk County equally and fairly, using your experience and knowledge to do the best job you can.
Being an effective county commissioner is a full-time job and I will give it my full-time attention. I believe I have the experience and the knowledge. I know I have the desire!
Remember, I ran for this office 4 years ago when it wasn't an open seat.