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County board candidates hold civil debate

For a political debate, the one between Matt Flynn and Ken Monsen on Thursday night was beyond civil.

For a political debate, the one between Matt Flynn and Ken Monsen on Thursday night was beyond civil.

On numerous issues, the men running for Olmsted County's Fourth District agreed. And after closing statements, Monsen made a point to thank Flynn for serving on the board. Monsen even said his criticisms of the county shouldn't reflect on Flynn: "None of those things are directed at Mr. Flynn directly."

The candidate forum was hosted by the Rochester Public Library and sponsored by the League of Women Voters Rochester, the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce and the Post-Bulletin. The event was moderated by the League's Enid Weichselbaum.

But the county board candidates do differ in some key areas. Monsen doesn't believe the county should add taxes to pay for Destination Medical Center costs, and he wants to get rid of the wheelage tax eventually. Flynn said the DMC-related expenses are justified.

The county implemented a $10 wheelage tax for each vehicle registered in Olmsted County to help toward its required $33 million share set up in the DMC legislation.


"I think $10 is just fine for now," Flynn said.

Monsen expressed general concern for raising taxes throughout the forum.

"I haven't really been a supporter of the wheelage tax in place. … I'm hoping that at some point, we can revoke the wheelage tax," Monsen said.

Flynn has been on the county board for 17 years, and before that, he was on the Pleasant Grove Township board for 11. He said he brings experience and know-how to the job.

"I listen to all perspectives. … (The board) brings our different perspectives on different issues, but we do make a vote. … We don't take it personal," Flynn said.

Monsen worked at IBM as a field engineer and then as an auto mechanic before retiring, which gives him skills in negotiating, he said.

"I've had a career of being a problem solver," Monsen said. "I would call myself a mild-mannered negotiator."

Another issue affecting District 4, the county's largest and possibly most diverse, involves an upcoming septic system ordinance from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency . The ordinance will affect rural residents and small towns, which may need to update systems to be in accordance with the law.


"I support an ordinance with common sense," Flynn said. "(The ordinance) is a draft. … We want to hear what the public thinks."

The county will hold public meetings on the potential ordinance in the coming weeks before adopting a policy.

"It is a burden for people, and I'm hoping some way can be found to ease this somehow," Monsen said.

Monsen and Flynn covered broad topics and specific questions to a small crowd of about 15 people, and they both kept their answers brief, rarely using the allotted 60 seconds. Weichselbaum, the moderator, said their brevity led to the most questions answered that she's seen at 23.

One such question asked how the candidates would interact with their constituents.

"We try to be open to anyone that has something they need to say," Monsen said. "I'll make it a point to get to as most of those (meetings) as possible."

Both Monsen and Flynn favored an in-person approach, mostly going to township and small town board and neighborhood meetings.

"I'm not a Facebook fan," Flynn said. "I'm not one of those people."

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