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Olmsted County open house aims to answer questions for potential commissioner candidates

At least four new commissioners are expected to be elected in November.

Open House Sign
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ROCHESTER — Six out of seven Olmsted County commissioner seats will be on the November ballot with the anticipation of seeing new faces, since at least four sitting commissioners have announced plans to retire.

To help potential candidates prepare, commissioners and county staff are hosting an open house from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on May 9 to answer questions for potential candidates. The event will be held in conference room 2 of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE.

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“We need good people on the ballot,” said County Board Chairman Mark Thein, whose District 7 seat is the only one that doesn’t face an election this year.

While the county staff works to provide new commissioners with a better understanding of county operations after they are elected, Thein said it’s important that potential candidates know about the work involved.

“If they are elected, they are going to do nothing for the first two years but learn,” Thein said, adding that serving means more than attending county board meetings every two weeks, so the ability to have a flexible schedule is required.

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County Administrator Heidi Welsch said she’ll provide an overview of county responsibilities and commissioners’ roles during the open house, but the remaining time will be an opportunity for potential candidates to ask sitting commissioners questions.

“We are hoping that anyone interested in running for county commissioner sees this as an opportunity to ask questions and gather information – both about the county and about what it is really like to be an elected county commissioner,” Welsch said, noting commissioners Ken Brown and Sheila Kiscaden are planning to join Thein at the event.

Commission districts 2, 4 and 6 will have their regularly scheduled elections for four-year terms in November, but districts 1, 3 and 5 will also see elections for two-year terms due to population changes in each ward following the redrawing of district lines.

Elections will be based on the updated district boundaries.

District 1 Commissioner Stephanie Podulke, District 2 Commissioner Ken Brown, District 4 Commissioner Matt Flynn and District 5 Commissioner Jim Bier have announced they do not plan to seek re-election.

District 3 Commissioner Gregg Wright and District 6 Commissioner Sheila Kiscaden have said they anticipate filing for another term.

The filing period for the November election is from May 17 to May 31.

Districts with more than two candidates after May 31 will see a primary election on Aug. 9 to narrow the field to two. The general election is Nov. 8.

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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