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Olmsted County District 1 candidates

Two seek District 1 commissioner seat in Olmsted County

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Laurel Podulke-Smith and Loring Stead.
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ROCHESTER — Two candidates will be on the Nov. 8 ballot for the next Olmsted County commissioner in District 1.

Each candidate was sent a short questionnaire seeking background information and their reason for seeking the seat.

Here’s what they provided:

Name: Laurel Podulke-Smith

Age: 48

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Occupation: Educator, Health and Wellness Professional, Cottage Food Entrepreneur.

Education: John Marshall High School; bachelor’s degree in theater arts, University of Minnesota Twin Cities; master’s degree in organizational leadership, Saint Mary’s University.

Have you held elected office? No.

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Laurel Podulke-Smith

Have you served on local government boards or commissions?

  • Olmsted County Human Services Advisory Board.

Community involvement:

  • Rochester Area Foundation, First Homes board member.
  • Kutzky Park Neighborhood Association, board member.
  • Rochester Civic Theater, executive board member.
  • Arts Trust of Minnesota, board member. 
  • Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota, volunteer.
  • Refugee Family Resettlement, volunteer.
  • Hawthorne Helps, volunteer.
  • A Litter Bit Better, volunteer.
  • Rochester Public Library, volunteer. 
  • Church volunteer and youth mentor.

What are your top three campaign issues:

  • Affordable housing.
  • Public safety.
  • Ensuring strong social services.

What makes you the most qualified candidate for this position? During my lifetime I have seen Rochester transform from a small city to a vibrant center for education, innovation and community life. My background in education, healthcare, small business and organizational leadership prepares me to serve our community through skilled communication, consensus building and total dedication to the success of Olmsted County.

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What will be your top goal if elected? My top goal when elected is addressing the affordable housing shortage in Olmsted County. Affordable housing is urgently needed, particularly low income, workforce, and senior housing. The solution requires coordination from city and county leadership, builders, non-profits, and the greater community to prioritize affordable housing for all Olmsted County residents.

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Loring Stead

Name: Loring Stead

Age: 66

Occupation: Retired foot and ankle podiatric surgeon at Olmsted Medical Center; current commercial real estate agent and author.

Education: Emmons High School; bachelor of arts in biology and chemistry, Luther College; doctorate of podiatry/medicine, Rosalind Franklin University

Have you held elected office? No.

Have you served on local government boards or commissions? No.

Community involvement:

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  • Surgical assistant training adviser at Rochester Community and Technical College.
  • Rochester bike trails task force for the city .
  • Olmsted County infection control advisory committee.
  • Hiawatha Homes and Foundation boards, member.
  • First Homes board, former member.
  • Olmsted Medical Center Board of Trustees and Board of Governors, member.
  • Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association.
  • Dancing for the Arts.
  • Leadership 2000, graduate.
  • Former Slatterly Park Board representative for Olmsted Medical Center.
  • Tee it up for the Troops volunteer.

What are your top three campaign issues:

  • Facilitate a well-run Olmsted County.
  • Health and human services.
  • Affordable housing.

What will be your top goal if elected? Mental health access for all and particularly youth will be of highest urgency. The COVID years were brutal. The needs for help are real and urgent. Mental health issues and youth programs will always have a strong advocate with my presence.

What will be your top goal if elected? I am qualified for this position as I have taken 30-plus years of action steps to serve with my preparation in community servitude. Olmsted County number of employees with 1,300, number of divisions 20, and over $280 million budget are all very similar to what I have already been familiar with and working with at OMC.

I will be listening and learning from day one and am already attending monthly board meetings.

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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