Bennett plans to seek county board spot

By Tim Ruzek

The Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

For more on Tony Bennett

Go to Bennett's official campaign website at

Candidate filings don't start for another month, but Austin resident Tony Bennett has been campaigning for months online for a seat on the Mower County Board.

Bennett is an example of a growing trend — candidates using the Internet to campaign for local political offices.

Last fall, Bennett launched a Web site for his campaign to replace 4th District County Board member Dick Lang in this year's election. A few months ago, Bennett added a page on Facebook, an online social-networking site, devoted to his campaign.


His use of the Internet is not common for Austin-area candidates. For Bennett, who turns 40 in September, it's a way to share his opinions and interact with people.

On his site, Bennett has written several blogs giving his thoughts on county issues, mainly the criminal justice center being built in downtown Austin. He also encourages people to write comments or send him questions.

One reason Bennett built his site was to get more interactivity with the public, noting that customer service is a big part of his job. Bennett noted the county board's Web page doesn't list e-mail addresses for any of the five board members.

An Austin native, Bennett spent the first 18 years living in the 4th District, which covers the city's 3rd Ward on the east side, and he moved back to it in 2008.

Bennett, who is in his fifth year on the city's Planning Commission, works in sales for his family's business, Robert's Specialty Co., which produces decorated apparel and is in the 4th District.

Earlier this year, Lang, 70, said he would run for re-election if his health was good.

A former Austin City Council member, Lang has served as the 4th District representative since 2003 and is finishing his second term. Lang also is a businessman, including owning Bobee Jo's Bar on Austin's east side.

Focus on limited government


Bennett uses phrases on his website, like "straight talk" and "Common sense makes good government." He also highlights a quote by former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson on how liberty does not come from government.

"The history of liberty is a history of limitations of government power, not the increase of it," according to part of Wilson's quote.

Bennett said he wants to bring his experience from operating a small business to working on the county's operations, including working with department heads to save money.

"There's a difference in the way that small business operates and the government," Bennett said.

In early 2009, Bennett served as a leader of a citizens group that collected more than 1,000 signatures on a petition aimed at holding a public referendum on the county's bonding or financing for the justice center.

The group wanted to give taxpayers a say in the county's biggest capital-improvement project in its history, but the board members unanimously rejected the petition presented by Bennett.

Construction began in spring 2009 on the $29 million justice center, which is expected to be operational by October.

Also in 2009, Bennett notes, the board unanimously voted to raise their own annual pay while also increasing the county portion of property taxes by 17.9 percent.


"This during the greatest recession since the Great Depression," Bennett wrote on his Web site.

County leaders showed a "real disconnect with the average citizen" in those decisions, he said.

Bennett promotes himself as a candidate for those who "think there is some room in government for an official who would say 'no' occasionally, even when it was hard or unpopular to do so."

If elected, Bennett said he wouldn't want to be a micro-manager on the board or bring an "agenda" — a word he dislikes.

"It speaks to me of being closed-minded."

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