Frac sand, county budget lead candidate concernsQuestions at a forum for Goodhue County Board District 5 candidates covered everything from frac sand mining to the county budget.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
Questions at a forum for Goodhue County Board District 5 candidates covered everything from frac sand mining to the county budget.
The forum was one of two hosted by the Red Wing League of Women Voters Thursday night, with the second featuring Red Wing School Board candidates.
Incumbent Ted Seifert and challenger Paul Drotos were in the hot seats, explaining their stances on a number of issues facing Goodhue County today and over the next four years.
Seifert has held a position on the County Board since 2003 and said he wants to continue the work he’s been doing, while Drotos said he’s running for county commissioner for the first time because he wants to keep frac sand mining from entering local communities.
One of the questions at the forum touched on that topic specifically, asking, “What should Goodhue County’s policy be on frac sand mining?”
Drotos said he wants to see a flat out ban of the practice, for the sake of personal health, environmental health “and the fact that Goodhue County is a beautiful place and it should remain that way.”
Seifert called Drotos’ position “extreme” and differed in the way he would handle frac sand mining.
“I take a balanced, moderate position,” he said.
Seifert said he would vote in favor of a ban, but only if the county could not first come up with a zoning ordinance that would sufficiently protect the health and safety of its citizens.
Another issue that’s been of primary interest lately is the county’s budget, which was also addressed at the forum.
Seifert took a look back at his history with the county to portray how he’s handled — and said he plans to continue handling — the budget, saying levy increases were more than 13 percent per year before he became a commissioner. Most recently, the levy increase has been kept lower than 2 percent.
“We know that our economy is not necessarily very robust out there,” Seifert said. “I’m for keeping the levy flat.”
The commissioner said he would do so by finding more ways to collaborate with area counties that would save both entities money.
Drotos answered the same question by saying he would cut the salaries of those on the County Board to improve the budget.
“I will propose immediately a 50 percent reduction in commissioners’ salaries,” he said, adding that commissioners receive almost triple the amount of money Red Wing City Council members are compensated.
Reducing the salaries will “bring more people with the right attitude forward,” Drotos said.
Other questions brought up at the forum had candidates discussing the challenges they expect the county to face, the industries they encourage or discourage and the way they see Goodhue County collaborating with the city of Red Wing in the future.
While many of the questions centered on hot-button issues, one in particular strayed from the election entirely. It started by thanking both candidates for their dedication and courage to run for office, followed by asking, “What is the most courageous thing you’ve done?”
Drotos recalled the times he’s spent standing outside in John Rich Park over the course of seven years to speak out against the war in Iraq.
“I took out my sign advocating peace because I believe it was an unjust war,” he said, adding that he’d stand there another seven years if he had to do so.
Seifert responded to the question by referring to a situation that took away the shy personality he said he had when he was younger. His father was a salesman going from farm to farm. After just a few days of joining his dad on the job Seifert was sent out on his own, and it became an experience that would change his future.
“I moved on from salesmanship into politics,” he said.
Those who couldn’t attend Thursday’s forum can watch it in its entirety on Channel 6 or at redwing-mn.pegcentral.com/index.php.