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Candidate Q&A: Goodhue County District 4

Three candidates are challenging the incumbent for the District 4 seat on the Goodhue County Board of Commissioners.

Jim Bryant is seeking re-election against Keith Fossen, Jason Majerus and Andru Peters to represent Belvidere, Featherstone, Goodhue, Hay Creek, Florence and Zumbrota townships and the cities of Bellechester, Goodhue, Zumbrota and part of Lake City.

A primary election Aug. 12 will determine which two of the four candidates will advance to the general election this fall.

There also are five hopefuls looking to take the District 2 seat in another hotly contested race.

The candidates were asked to describe themselves and outline their vision and goals as a county commissioner. 

Name: Jim Bryant

Civic involvement: Current county commissioner, vice chairman of County Board, chairman of the Health and Human Services Board, former Hay Creek Township supervisor, past president of Goodhue Lions, past presidents of both the Red Wing Booster Club and Basketball Association, member of the Friends of the Florence Town Hall, Frontenac Sportsman Club and Pheasants Forever.

What sets you apart from the other District 4 County Board candidates?

As a current county commissioner, I have had the opportunity to help shape the future direction of Goodhue County. We have privatized such programs as Home Health and by doing so, kept the integrity of the program for our residents that are in need of this care. Built strong relationships with area legislators and Federal representatives on safety projects like Highway 61 in Frontenac and Highway 52 and County Road 9 overpass. Worked closely with city and township leaders on issues and concerns in their areas.

We have put in place a number of changes since I became commissioner. We now have a Personnel and Budget Committee, which is held by the chairman and vice chairman. I have always been a strong voice for residents of District 4 and a commissioner people are comfortable talking to and discussing ideas, issues and concerns.

What are some specific needs and issues in District 4 and how would you address them?

Frac sand is an issue that we recently faced. Through the work of the mining committee, the Planning Commission and County Board, I introduced language to strengthen our mining ordinance on frac sand mining.

To date we have not had any applications for frac sand mining. We now have 1-mile setbacks for the Mississippi River, cities, designated trout streams and campgrounds in Hay Creek and R 1 residential area. Roads are something I have a real passion for.

I feel we have made improvements on our roads by working closely with local, state and federal partners along the Highway 52 corridor. We have made some significant strides towards making 52 a safer Highway, however we still have work to do and I have found it takes time as it all revolves around highway funding.

What would be your top priority if you were elected and why?

The county budget has been the top priority as it drives what we are planning to do. We have worked on a two-year budget for a number of years now. We plan on what is coming up for the next two years and plan accordingly.

Not everything is included in the budget that department heads would like. We strive to get the “best bang for a buck.” Always keeping in mind the needs and costs of taxpayers. Costs are rising and needs are always there.

Being located between the Twin Cities and Rochester, we are looking at continuing to grow. Working with our communities to bring good-paying jobs, wherever it is in Goodhue County, is good for the entire county. The County Board recently approved a local manufacture company, which is growing and projected to bring 100 new jobs to our county. 

Name: Keith A. Fossen

Age: 60

Address: 30966 Hay Creek Hills Drive, Red Wing

Occupation: President/CEO of AMKE LLC and COO of Peppermint Energy, a solar generator manufacturer

Education: BS Business Administration

Family: I live with my wife of 24 years, Dr. Amy Nelson, in Hay Creek Township; and I have two adult daughters, Courtney and Alicia; two grandchildren, Alex and Laura; and two dogs, Onyx and Leeza.

Civic involvement: Chair of Hay Creek Town Board; board member of Red Wing Ignite, a business incubator; board member Goodhue County Historical Society; citizen's advisory committee member, Minnesota Environmental Quality Board; founding member, Save-the-Bluffs citizen’s group.

What sets you apart from the other District 4 County Board candidates?

More than 20 years of working as a business turn-around guy taught me how to deal with people, businesses and governments to bring solutions to very difficult situations. It also taught me how to dissect financials to eliminate waste and help businesses thrive.

I want to help Goodhue County thrive. By approaching county government like you would a business, demanding accountability, paying attention to detail and listening to our customers (the voters), we can accomplish more than most people think.

Growing our already important tourism industry, supporting small business, supporting agriculture and developing high-tech industry can be done while protecting our environment and a way of life to which we have all become accustomed.

What are some specific needs and issues in District 4 and how would you address them?

Goodhue County is a very special place and the 4th District has a uniqueness of its own. The townships have beautiful rolling hills and vistas that have been appreciated by writers since the area was settled. Lake City has a booming tourist and manufacturing economy, Goodhue is an agricultural center and Zumbrota is a place people want to live and businesses want to locate to. We have a great heritage and even greater potential if we:

a) Say no to outside interests to protect our way of life.

b) Invest in economic development based on new technology for sustainable job growth.

c) Evaluate the benefit of every budget item, eliminating waste and focusing spending on public safety, infrastructure and projects that benefit the county as whole.

What would be your top priority if you were elected and why?

Restore the public’s trust in our county government.

I was asked by many citizens and groups to run for commissioner. I accepted this challenge because elected officials need to be transparent and be an advocate for the people.

The recent wind and silica controversies left numerous residents frustrated with elected officials. They feel their voices and hours of research were for not. This is wrong.

When I joined the Hay Creek planning commission, we surveyed township residents and received analogous responses that drove planning and local ordinances. I continue to ask citizens for input at the township and county level. Go to my web site to add your voice:

Name: Jason Majerus

Age: 36

Address: 39111 County 2 Blvd., Goodhue

Occupation: Manager/Owner Majerus Garage, husband, father

Education: Goodhue Public School, Bachelors degree in business administration from Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota

Family: Wife Johanna (Sammelson), four children, Jacey 9, Morgan 7, Lexi 5, Sam 2

Civic involvement: Many people join clubs and associations as a way to build, give back and help their community. I highly respect and encourage their efforts. As a father I believe that my first responsibility is to teach my children to love their country and to be givers not takers. As a small businessman I encounter many people in need. I prefer to help quietly and privately. Right or wrong this is the way I was raised and this is the way I will raise my children. 

What sets you apart from the other District 4 County Board candidates?

I am a small-business owner and job creator. I work with budgets daily both in my business and my family. I understand the limited budgets of my customers. I work with them to make the best possible decisions based on their budgets and help them prioritize repairs. Success in a small business depends on understanding that the customers come first. 

As your commissioner I will work hard to prioritize the budget while respecting the limited budgets of the taxpayer. I believe that it is our government’s job to serve and protect the rights of the taxpayer.

What are some specific needs and issues in District 4 and how would you address them?

The rapidly increasing cost of safe roads and bridges will continue to challenge our county. Keeping our infrastructure in the best condition possible is vital to our citizens and encourages business growth. Careful budgeting and working with our state and federal representatives is just part of the solution. Growth is another.

As a business owner I am very aware of the loss of high paying jobs. Too many of my costumers are struggling to make it working two or three part-time jobs. It is not the same as full-time employment with good benefits. There is no easy solution to this problem.

As an employer I understand what is needed to encourage healthy business growth. We need to become a county that welcomes high paying job growth that will be good for all the citizens of our county.

What would be your top priority if you were elected and why?

My top priority as a county commissioner would be to respect the taxpayer’s dollar. Every dollar spent by the government, first, has to come from a taxpayer. As a member of the working class, I work hard for every dollar. As your county commissioner I promise you that I will respect your hard earned money. I will continually look for ways to reduce the tax burden. This can be done both through efficiency and growth.

Name: Andru Peters

Age: 73

Address: 1009 Safari Way, Lake City

Occupation: City Council for Lake City

Education: MS Degree (systems management), USC, Los Angles; BA Degree (political science and economics), Macalester College, St. Paul; and AA Degree (transportation), DeAnza College, Cupertino, California

Family: Single

Civic involvement: president elect Lake City Kiwanis; president of SMART; vice chair, Hiawathaland Transit; commissioner, Minnesota High Speed Rail; youth sports competition coordinator, Lake City Kiwanis; parish council secretary for Holy Anargyroi Church; commissioner Lake City EDA; representative for District 4 Goodhue County Parks, Trail & Recreation Board; League of Minnesota Cities Policy Committee Improving Service Delivery and Improving Local Economies; commissioner Greater MN Regional Parks & Trails

What sets you apart from the other District 4 County Board candidates?

I have served for six years on the City Council of Lake City where I've worked to ensure the wise use of citizens’ tax dollars while helping create an environment in which all residents have the opportunity to succeed. I'll never claim to have all the answers, but I'll listen, learn and act in a way that reflects our shared commonsense interests. 

As an elected official have attended numerous Wabasha and Goodhue County Board meetings to obtain current information to ensure the residents of Lake City are represented well. During Minnesota's legislative sessions, I am at the State Capital frequently lobbying and advocating for initiatives and funding sources for Lake City and the neighboring counties. I have successfully advocated for infrastructure improvements which has improved the viability of Lake City.

What are some specific needs and issues in District 4 and how would you address them?

Traveling through District 4, high taxes remain an issue and my objective would be to control tax and spending for a cost effective, efficient and sustained quality of life. Economic and tourism growth also concern business owners and I would strive to advocate development of creating jobs to expand our tax capacity. Citizen concerns on frac sand and my opinion is that local ordinances need to be strong enough to coincide with the interest of the residents, which would include to change state statutes and federal regulations. The emphasis is that of "extraction" to include all existing minerals in the county such as iron ore. As an elected official we have to balance our efforts for the safety and welfare of our citizens as well as promoting economic and tourism growth to sustain the quality of life we desire of our county.

What would be your top priority if you were elected and why?

As a member of a five-member board, I would strive to reach an objective where issues move beyond the political arguments and stalemate that have negatively impacted our region and the state. I would encourage infrastructure improvements to facilitate future growth and expansion which falls in line with advocating for tourism and economic development to create jobs and expand tourist visitors to enhance a vibrant main street for our cities. 

All of these changes would be initiated through controlling taxes and spending to ensure our return on investment achieves development objectives. 

Lastly I would strive to encourage collaboration and partnering with townships, cities and state agencies to avoid duplication of services.

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.

(651) 301-7875