The residents of District 1 in Goodhue County have not had representation at the county level since April when Commissioner Ron Allen died from leukemia. Two candidates, Darwin Fox and Linda Flanders, filed for the special election scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 5.
District 1 covers parts of Red Wing and Welch Township.
We asked the candidates about their qualifications, priorities and positions on local issues. Here are their responses:
Q: Why did you decide to run?
Flanders: The County Board directs the way a county is going to go. With a rapidly changing world, I believe this means we need to look ahead and invest in the infrastructure needed to meet the future. We are a more diverse county today than 20 years ago and I believe we need more diverse voices. Rather than stay quiet or complain, I decided to step up, speak out and represent the needs of people the best I can. I have worked in the service of people all my life and I now believe that a leadership role is where I can do the most good.
Fox: I want to work for the people of District 1. I have lived in District 1 for 43 years and have been involved with township and county government for twenty plus years. It was very unfortunate we lost a good leader that had great visions for Goodhue County and I would like to continue with that vision.
Q: How are you uniquely qualified for this position?
Fox: I am a business owner who knows what it takes to budget and manage to be successful in today’s changing world. The years of serving on town board and planning commissions have given me great knowledge of county government. I have attended many county board meetings to follow many important issues. My lists of community involvement are:
- 20 Years - on the Miesville Fire Department of which 5 years as fire chief.
- 20 Years - Welch Township supervisor
- 18 Years - Welch Planning Commission
- 8 Years - Goodhue County Township Association president
- 6 Years - Goodhue County Board of Adjustments
- 4 Years - Goodhue County Planning Commission.
I always listen to both sides of issues, study and make the best decisions possible. I feel it is very important to put people first when making decisions.
Flanders: I have a curious mind and I stay up to date on most current events. I understand the human condition and what human beings need to grow and thrive. I embrace innovation and will work to approach issues facing the county in a creative way. I understand expenses cannot exceed income and I know we cannot tax ourselves out of the problems we face. I have experience with conflict resolution both as a law enforcement officer and in teaching crisis intervention de-escalation skills to others. These skills do offer the potential for bridging divides and getting things done for the people of Goodhue County.
Q: What have you done to prepare to sit on the Goodhue County Board?
Flanders: I am studying a lot! I have been attending some of the board meetings, reviewing agenda documents, and I have been talking to department heads, learning about the issues they face. I have been going door-to-door in District 1 to talk to people and hear their concerns. I have encouraged people I talk with to contact me and I have made myself available to them. If I don’t know an answer, I research it and get back to them.
Fox: I have followed the board for many years, and have also studied the critical issues that have come up since the District 1 vacancy.
Q: You will be coming in as a tie breaker on a few topics discussed by the board. How will you approach resolving disagreements?
Fox: By trying to bring both sides together and discussing all possibilities to come up with the best decision possible. I realize you will not always be able to come up with total agreement from both sides.
Flanders: I certainly know it is imperative to listen to other people’s beliefs and concerns. The way I plan to govern is by talking and listening to all perspectives on these important issues. We all have our own perceptions, and the best results come from meeting with the stakeholders on all sides of issues, understanding their reasoning, and finding areas where we do agree. It may be that I am a tie-breaking vote on issues where there is disagreement, and I won’t shy away from that. I will respectfully listen to other opinions and work towards consensus.
Q: The solid waste plan has been a hot topic in the county lately. What are your thoughts on the plan?
Flanders: I realize this is an area of vocal disagreement, but I feel the plan to get the county into the state’s closed landfill program is the best decision. It would be financially irresponsible to keep Goodhue County out of the closed landfill program. Landfills leak! It’s just a matter of time. When the County landfill leaks, unless we are in the closed landfill program, the county tax payers will have to pay millions of dollars in fines and clean-up costs. I support the waste-to-energy agreement, and while I understand no one wants rates to increase, I feel this is the most reasonable path forward for our county as a whole, and I support it.
Fox: The first thing, the county needs to ensure is the landfill is taken over by the state. Senator Kelly worked very hard to get the state to put the Goodhue County Landfill into the closed landfill program so that the residents of Goodhue county will not be held responsible for a large, costly cleanup in the event the landfill would start to leak. As I understand, one of the stipulations is that the county must mandate a central location for collection. If it is Red Wing, the county needs to ensure there is a level playing field in the cost of collection so resident in outer Goodhue County are not burdened with paying more than others in close to proximity to the collection site. The second thing is, we all as residents have been paying into a cleanup fee for years, and will continue to even if the landfill is not put into the program but none of those fees collected can be used to clean up the existing landfill. So, essentially the residents could be paying twice for this program if this does not move forward.
Q: What issues or topics would your prioritize if elected?
- Shortage of housing in Goodhue County. Housing is hindering our economic growth in Goodhue County.
- Maintaining a good infrastructure that would support the growth of new or relocating of business to Goodhue County. Without good infrastructure, businesses will not be successful.
- Bringing all levels of government together. Working as one in the best interest of the residents and tax payers of Goodhue County.
Flanders: I have three top priorities:
- I would prioritize continuing to invest in creating jobs and economic growth, particularly when it comes to renewable energy.
- Housing is an issue; local employers have job openings yet employees do not have enough places to live. I support all levels of housing as we have various levels of job openings.
- Finally, I believe improving mental and physical health is essential. I believe all three of these areas interconnect.
Q: How would you contribute to the levy/budgeting process now that the preliminary levy has been set?
Flanders: The preliminary levy was recently voted on and the final levy will be set in December. It cannot go up beyond the 2.54% increase, but it can still go down. I understand there is still some leeway depending on South Country’s health insurance bid, which may be lower than originally expected. I plan to support the current levy in December, as I would be deeply concerned about kicking the can down the road if we decrease the levy beyond what has already been voted on. No one wants property taxes to go up, including me. As a county commissioner it will be my job to approve reasonable increases when necessary so that we avoid sharp increases like the 8% hike that occurred in 2018.
Fox: I would ensure that all departments’ budgets are accurate for the coming year. I am not in favor of raising the levy and put the burden back on the tax payers of Goodhue County.
Q: What else do you want the District 1 voters to know about you?
Fox: I am a hardworking person that always puts the residents of Goodhue County first when making any decisions that can affect the quality of life that we are used to and expect in the great neighborhoods that we live in. I will work very hard to bring economic growth, health and welfare to District 1 and all of Goodhue County.
Flanders: I care about this county and its people. My great-grandfather was one of Red Wing’s early settlers in 1850 and had a business on Main Street. He lived four blocks away from where I live now. This legacy connects me to this community in a deep way. I want to see us thrive, be healthy, happy and safe, and be a beacon of creative solutions. I have a diverse background, a creative mind and I’m a hard worker. I will use these skills for the people of Goodhue County.