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Rechtzigel looks ahead into 2016

Newly appointed Goodhue County Board Chair Dan Rechtzigel said 2016 will be a year to set priorities and begin planning for the next decade. (Republican Eagle photo by Michael Brun)

After years of “putting out fires” over the recession, foreclosures, wind farms and silica sand mining, Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel said 2016 should allow Goodhue County Board time to start planning for the future.

“I feel we’re at a point where we can now stop, take a breath and look not just through 2016, but through 2026,” said Rechtzigel, 40, a longtime board member and Kenyon-Wanamingo High School social studies teacher. He was selected as the board chairman earlier this month, the third time since first being elected in 2004.

Commissioners discussed current and upcoming issues at an annual workshop Jan. 12 in Kenyon, where Rechtzigel said he made his case for “long-term strategic planning.”

“We did this probably 10-plus years ago, very soon after I joined the board,” he said. The goals commissioners came up with at that time included going to an 800 megahertz emergency communications system, combining public health and social services, and building interchanges in Cannon Falls and at County Road 9.

“I thought about this over the Christmas break and realized, man, we got a lot of that accomplished.”

Going forward, Rechtzigel said he would like each commissioner on the five-member board to create a list of priorities in categories such as transportation, zoning and technology. The lists then could be presented to the county management team for feedback and direction.

“There are issues out there that aren’t 2016 issues, but they will become an issue by around 2020,” he added. “So we’re going to have to get that on the radar at some point.”

Differing opinions

Rechtzigel said he is pleased with the diverse perspectives of his fellow commissioners, from fellow longtimers Ted Seifert and Ron Allen to newcomers Brad Anderson and Jason Majerus.

“It’s nice to have that variety, and it’s the same with our management team too,” he said. “They all bring their different life experiences to the table and can give us good insight into the issues that come up.”

Differences in opinion led to heated exchanges last year, especially during county budget discussions, but Rechtzigel said commissioners respect each other and work well together.

“We just have different opinions and sometimes we become passionate about them — and that’s great,” he said. “We’re big boys; we should be able to handle that.”

Solid waste, high-speed rail

A divisive topic commissioners will continue to tackle this year is a 20-year solid waste designation ordinance that, if approved, would require all municipal waste collected in the county to go to Red Wing for the city’s refuse-derived fuel agreement with Xcel Energy.

The process also would include updating the county’s solid waste plan and getting the Bench Street landfill in the state’s Closed Landfill Program — avoiding liabilities for future cleanup.

The board approved moving ahead with drafting an ordinance in December by a 3-to-2 vote. Rechtzigel, a vocal critic of the plan, likened the designation to a monopoly.

“It’s just a fundamental principle I have that monopolies are not a good way to do business, especially when designating a third-party monopoly that you can’t really control,” he said. “I’m just not convinced it would work.”

One area Rechtzigel said commissioners agree on is opposing high-speed passenger rail proposed to cut through the county from the Twin Cities to Rochester, favoring instead a Mississippi River route that would pass through Red Wing on the way to Chicago.

“That will continue to be a strong statement from this board,” Rechtzigel said. “We will not entertain pie-in-the-sky projects that may or may not work and will be incredibly disruptive to this county.”

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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