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Olmsted County commissioners take nearly eight decades of experience into retirement

Four of seven county commissioners are set to step down from office at the end of the year.

Olmsted County Commissioners
Commissioner Matt Flynn speaks during a celebration to recognize his retirement along with other Olmsted County Commissioners on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, at the Government Center in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Nearly 80 years of combined experience among retiring Olmsted County commissioners was celebrated Tuesday.

With four commissioners less than seven weeks away from stepping down from office, county staff and residents gathered at the city-county Government Center to recognize their contributions.

“It’s not always the most glamorous work,” County Administrator Heidi Welsch said, adding that it is work that is vital to the community and covers areas as diverse as county road construction and addressing community mental health.

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The wide array of services provided was also highlighted as key staff members acknowledged the individual work and oversight by commissioners Matt Flynn, Jim Bier, Ken Brown and Stephanie Podulke.

Deputy County Administrator Travis Gransee pointed to Flynn’s ability to raise questions that were not only challenging but also sought to provide needed information and clarity as new programs were implemented throughout his 26-year career.

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As the county’s longest serving commissioner, Gransee said Flynn embraced deep-seated values that led to clear victories when challenged in elections.

Kaye Bieniek, the county’s physical development division administrator, said Bier’s 20 years in office have been highlighted by being a voice of his constituents and pushing for a variety of projects they valued while seeking to limit tax impacts.

Welsch said Brown’s 20 years have also been linked to fiscal responsibility, alongside a desire to improve services to people in the county who rely on them. She said she’s been impressed by his ability to give his full efforts to all aspects of the job, whether on high profile boards or working on smaller issues behind the scenes.

Olmsted County Commissioners
Newly retired Olmsted County Commissioners Stephanie Podulke, left, and Ken Brown talk during a celebration to recognize the retirement of four Olmsted County Commissioners on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, at the Government Center in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

The county administrator also spoke of Podulke’s 11-year commitment to finding innovative approaches to a variety of county services as a commissioner, highlighting state-leading tobacco policies, development of housing initiatives and equity work.

For their part, each of the commissioners pointed back to the county staff.

“I’m just a caretaker,” Bier said, noting that county staff oversee the day-to-day operations that make the county successful.

Brown, who joined the county board with Bier in 2002, agreed. “We are here to try to help guide with a lot of support from the staff,” he said.

The four commissioners did not seek another term in office, which led to four newcomers winning Nov. 8 races to fill their seats: Laurel Podulke-Smith in District 1, Dave Senjem in District 2, Brian Mueller in District 4 and Michelle Rossman in District 5.

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Podulke, who is the mother of Podulke-Smith, said she’s confident the work during recent years will continue to change and improve as new members step into their roles.

Flynn said he is proud of the work that has been done since he took office and feels he and his fellow commissioners are leaving the county in good shape as others take over their roles.

“We are a very successful county,” he said.

More photos from the event

Olmsted County Commissioners
Former Commissioner Jim Bier speaks during a celebration to recognize his retirement along with other Olmsted County Commissioners on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, at the Government Center in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Olmsted County Commissioners
Plaques sit on a table during a celebration to recognize the retirement of four Olmsted County Commissioners on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, at the Government Center in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Olmsted County Commissioners
Former Commissioner Jim Bier speaks during a celebration to recognize his retirement along with other Olmsted County Commissioners on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, at the Government Center in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Olmsted County Commissioners
Former Commissioner Stephanie Poldulke speaks during a celebration to recognize his retirement along with other Olmsted County Commissioners on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, at the Government Center in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Olmsted County Commissioners
Former Commissioner Ken Brown speaks during a celebration to recognize his retirement along with other Olmsted County Commissioners on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, at the Government Center in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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