Below are the answers from the three candidates on the primary ballot for Aug. 11, Vance Haugen, Marc Prestby and Tony Webber. Some responses have been edited for clarity and newspaper style.
Previous elected office: Township Supervisor Canton Township, two years.
Highest education level: Masters of Science in Agricultural Mechanization, Agricultural Engineering Department, North Dakota State University.
Business experience: Own and operate, with my wife and son, a 150-cow rotational dairy, 1993 to present.
What can Fillmore County do to help businesses recover after COVID-19? Those businesses that are to recover need immediate cash flow relief during and after this pandemic. Fillmore County needs to prioritize creating and securing both loan and grant funds to quickly disperse emergency relief dollars to stabilize local business and support essential operational costs such as rent, utilities and payroll.
Grants will be distributed in partnership with local economic development authorities and eligible businesses must have 30 full-time employees or less and have a physical presence in the county.
To help implement this long-term current county economic development, projects would be put on hold and the resources and personnel would focus on the urgent needs in the business community, from advocating for small businesses to helping locate and provide resources to conducting individual outreach.
What are your concerns and solutions for the county budget? Basic economics boils down to unlimited wants and limited resources. In the near term we cannot add a large amount of addition resources , therefore sharing resources , which is being done, needs to be aggressively expanded.
Government departments tend to operate as siloed empires. Significant saving opportunities can come from sharing more resources and greater collaboration. For example, equipment and inventory can be transferred and managed between departments, or staff can transition to assist with peak work periods (cross training). Some of this is already being done; we need to change how it is done and implemented. Resources, both time and dollars, must be adequately budgeted and a systematic plan must be developed to implement and evolve this system so the departments embrace it.
What is the biggest problem facing Fillmore County over the next few years? Recruiting and keeping good employees. In recent years the county has kept pushing for more cuts and consolidations. That is a good strategy,to a point. Cutting positions, asking people to do more and more with less and less and low balling pay destroy morale. It has been the kiss of death for employee morale in Fillmore County. Employees are the glue that make things work, and while for some this is a stepping stone position, that does not mean that our most important resource, good people, should be treated as disposable or just temporary. Small steps have been taken to alleviate this problem and they are a start. Remember, every problem has a solution with a last name. The best employees get the best results..
Marc Prestby (Photo not available)
Previous elected office: I have been Fillmore County Commissioner for District 5 for the last 20 years. Previous to this I was on the Canton City Council for eight years.
Highest education level: Graduate of the Minnesota School of Business with a degree in Business Management & Accounting.
Business experience: For the last 30 years I have been employed as an accounts receivable manager/charter coordinator for First Student. Also, for the last 41 years I have been owner/operator of Prestby Auction Service. My private sector employment has given the county board great insight as to comparing benefits and salary in the private community and thus comparing it to the public workforce.
What can Fillmore County do to help businesses recover after COVID-19? One example of helping businesses was delaying payments for real estate taxes this past year. We also are exploring how we can help the school districts in our county by possibly using money from the Federal Cares Act if allowable. Helping businesses in the county should and will be a top priority for all and we will try and do what we can to help in any way that is possible.
What are your concerns and solutions for the county budget? County budgets will be of great concern for the next few years with the possibility of unallotment and levy limits. During my tenure on the county board I have had experience with both levy limits and unallotment so that experience will help the board navigate through each possibility as it is presented.
What is the biggest problem facing Fillmore County over the next few years? The biggest problem facing Fillmore County over the next few years will be recovery from the recent pandemic. Doing more with less will be a course of action that we will have to adhere to. We will have to look at how services to the public are being provided and how we could possibly improve/consolidate how we provide that service.
Tony Webber (Photo not available)
Previous elected office: I was elected to the Harmony City Council in 2018. Since my election I have been serving as a member of the council as well as the Park Board, Building Maintenance, and the Utilities Commission.
Highest education level: Bachelor of Science from Mankato State University.
Business experience: I worked for the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office for 27 years. The last four years of my career, prior to my retirement, I was promoted to Chief Deputy, which is second in command. In this position I was responsible for day-to-day operations of the sheriff’s office and its employees. I assisted the sheriff with implementing and working with the budget as well as working with the Fillmore County Board of Commissioners.
What can Fillmore County do to help businesses recover after COVID 19? Fillmore County businesses are facing hardship due to COVID-19. The local businesses in our county are essential to citizens and they need the support of their community and community leaders. I plan to work cooperatively with the local economic development administrations and businesses affected by COVID-19 to find out what their specific needs are. I will encourage and support business owners to obtain state and federal grants as well as low-interest financing opportunities. Also, in these uncertain times, I will continue to remain in close contact with local business owners to monitor their needs as they change with the pandemic.
What are your concerns and solutions for the county budget? My main concern for the county’s budget is the uncertainty we are facing due to the pandemic. Fillmore County has a limited tax revenue because we are a rural county with specific agriculture markets. Just like the average citizen of Fillmore County is being frugal during these uncertain economic times, the Fillmore County Board of Commissioners needs to be even more mindful and cautious with how they are spending tax dollars. In addition, I am also concerned as there is an ever-increasing pressure that is placed on local public services offered by the county. The best solution is to create a stronger revenue stream. This can be accomplished by supporting existing businesses and attracting new businesses.
What is the biggest problem facing Fillmore County over the next few years? The jail in our county is outdated and will be closed sooner than later if no decision or progress is made. The Minnesota State Department of Corrections has not given a closing date for our jail, but the date will most likely be sooner than later. This has been an ongoing problem for many years and there has been no decision made. There is a committee that has been formed to do a needs study on the jail that would address the pros and cons on either building a new jail or closing the county’s jail and housing inmates in nearby counties. I believe that it is of high importance that citizens know the issues Fillmore County is facing with this challenge.