District 5 has distinct candidates from which to choose
By Lanier Frush Holt
Different, in a word, would best describe the candidates seeking Olmsted County's District 5 seat, as well as the district itself.
Redistricting approved by the county board earlier this year has flip-flopped the district, which had been primarily rural and is now mostly urban.
James Bier, who has served in various government positions during the past 14 years, said his experience gives him an advantage over the competition. His plans include listening and representing all people in the district.
"I live here 12 months of the year and will be accessible throughout my term," he said. "With three young children, I have the same concerns that many people in the district have. I will be a fresh voice and work hard."
Key targets on his radar include monitoring the U.S. 52 project to ensure it proceeds on schedule, working with state legislators to improve county funding from the state, and monitoring the progress of a new work release facility.
Former Rochester Police Chief Pat Farrell said that as a commissioner he'd use his skills and experience to shore up the critical needs of the county in light of a state funding shortfall. Farrell said that during his more than 11-year career with the Rochester Police Department he "cultivated an attitude of willingness to genuinely listen to the concerns of others as (he) analyzes and acts on an issue. That skill and attitude, he adds, will help in effectively serving the needs and interests of rural and urban citizens in the district.
During his tenure as police chief, Farrell added, he established collaborative working relationships with county agencies that expend more than 70 percent of the county's budgeted funds.
"I was able to establish a relationship of trust and respect that I believe will continue to flourish as a county board member," he said.
Neil Melquist conversely, is new to politics. His pledge is to bring a fresh approach and new ideas to continue making the county a good place to live, work and raise a family.
"My goal is to reflect the attitudes and viewpoints of what the people in the 5th district want," he said. "I will be open-minded, listen to citizens and review the available data in order to make practical decisions in a quick and timely manner."
A farmer, Vietnam War veteran, and former IBM employee, Melquist describes himself as organized, focused and fiscally responsible. "I (plan to) work cooperatively with our townships and the cities of Byron and Rochester to ensure county stability, offer strong support of our youth and public safety, and to look ahead to plan for the enormous growth already happening in this county."
Daryl Gallagher, also has no experience in county government. He's self-employed, having earned his GED, he states, from the "school of hard knocks." He said he's running to "make certain that the freedoms I enjoy today will still be there when my son becomes a man."
While in school, Gallagher said he thought it was the "biggest waste of time." But he now says the community needs to instill a sense of pride in students. He also takes a hard line against environmentalists. "I was raised on a farm. I know how nature works," he said. "When you cut a tree down, another one grows back, it's not that hard to understand."
Welfare also draws his ire. "When the Republicans passed welfare reform, the Democrats were sprinting for every camera, screaming hysterically about 3 million children starving in the streets. What happened? Where are all the bodies? The simple fact is the country takes care of its own."
BOX; James Bier
Address: 5945 60th Ave. N.W., Oronoco
Family: Wife, Rita, three children: Tim, Amy, and Kelly
Work and education: Currently a farmer in Kalmar Township; former purchasing agent at Crenlo; bachelor's degree in plant pathology, University of Wisconsin.
Community and volunteer activities: Task Force Member for Rochester Catholic Schools; Founding member Holy Spirit Church; Knights of Columbus; Member of Olmsted County Historical Society, Rochester Rotary II
Previous government positions: Supervisor, Kalmar Township; Olmsted County Environmental Commission member; Olmsted County Board of Adjustment; Olmsted County Planning and Zoning Board.
Top issues: Develop positive relationships between Rochester, the townships, and county; improve and maintain Olmsted County's infrastructure, particularly U.S. 52; working with state legislators to increase county funding.
BOX; Patrick (Pat) Farrell
Address: 4712 Wintergreen Lane N.W., Rochester
Family: Wife, Peg; three sons: Timothy, Joseph and Mark
Work and education: Retired. Former Rochester chief of police; master's degree in business administration from University of St. Thomas
Community and volunteer activities: Served on boards for Boys and Girls Club of Rochester, Channel One; Diversity Council, Women's Shelter, Chiefs of Police Education Foundation, and Child Care and Resources Referral
Previous government positions: Deputy Chief of Police, city of Minneapolis
Top issues: Provide public safety services with the most effective communications network possible; improve social services for at-risk youth, abused children, the elderly and other vulnerable adults; assure that the best county services are provided in light of limited dollar resources
BOX; Neil Melquist
Address: 6241 14th St. N.W., Byron
Family: Wife, Joyce, five children: Stephanie, Elizabeth, Michelle, Eric and Laura
Work and education: Inspector for Custom Alarm, and a farmer in Kalmar Township; bachelor's degree from Winona State University, professional studies; Associate in Electronics from Northwestern Electronics Institute
Community and volunteer activities: Past member, Byron Jaycees; former volunteer basketball, softball, baseball, soccer and volleyball coach
Previous government positions: None
Top issues: Work with county employees to better utilize resources to enable tax dollars to go further; promote youth activities; ensure county growth happens in a smooth, fair and sensible way
BOX; Daryl Gallagher
Address: 308 1st Ave. N.E., Byron
Family: Wife, Colleen, no children
Work and education: Self-employed business owner, GED
Previous government positions: None
Top issues: Instill a sense of pride in students, motivating them to further their own education; finding administrators with the common sense to see through "the sky is falling" hysteria of tree huggers; make sure that bloated government budgets get trimmed so money can stay in parents' hands.