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Tribune Local News Story

Three people — Tim Gabrielson, Kathy Stutzman and Dan Vermilyea — are vying for the 1st District seat on the Mower County Board of Commissioners.

The 1st District includes the cities of Brownsdale, Mapleview, Lansing and Waltham, plus the townships of Lansing, Red Rock, Udolpho and Waltham and the 1st Ward, 1st Precinct in the city of Austin.

There are no other primary races among Mower County elected officials this year.

The top two vote-getters in the primary election will advance to the Tuesday, Nov. 4, State General Election.

The State Primary Election is Tuesday, Sept. 9.

Here are profiles of the candidates and their opinions on topical issues:

Tim

Gabrielson

Background: Farmers Insurance agent for 25 years. Resident of Red Rock Township for eight years.

Prior elective office experience: Board member Rochester Dairy Credit Union.

Why are you running for this office?

Gabrielson: “I hope to make the county run as efficiently as possible by making sure the dollars spent will give us the most for our tax dollars. I would bring fresh ideas and a new perspective.”

What special skills or experiences do you have to make an effective Mower County Commissioner?

Gabrielson: “I have worked closely for over 25 years, helping people. I have the ability to listen to people talk about their needs and expectations, and I’m usually able to find solutions.”

What is the top issue in this campaign?

Gabrielson: “I believe bringing the jail and justice center to conclusion, so we can focus our attention on the many other needs of the city and county.”

Are you satisfied with the County Board’s solution to public safety and jail over-crowding issues?

Gabrielson: “I feel the county has done the best it could working with the city to reach an amicable best for everyone.”

The future of the Robbins block is being questioned. Should it be saved and an alternative site for geothermal needs to be selected?

Gabrielson: “No. I feel we need the Robbins block for an efficient completion of the jail and justice center.”

Do we need to give more attention to the county’s roads and bridges?

Gabrielson: “Absolutely. We need to maintain our county roads better and to replace bridges ASAP to make our county safe.”

County finances: Are they being handled appropriately and in the best interests of the taxpayers?

Gabrielson: “Yes, they are. The county board struggles constantly with state and federal mandated regulations with little funding for services such as human services and jail requirements.”

Final remarks?

Gabrielson: “I have attended all county meetings for the past year and have watched and learned the process, so I will be able to hit the ground running.”

Kathy

Stutzman

Background:

Prior elective office experience: None.

Why are you running for this office?

Stutzman: “I am running for Mower County Commissioner in District No. I because I believe we can do better.”

What special skills or experiences do you have to make an effective Mower County Commissioner?

Stutzman: “I have a proven track record of listening and researching issues — making informed decisions. Strong leadership requires informed, balanced decision-making; visionary leadership re-frames complex challenges into responsive solutions. I have both strong and visionary leadership. My forward-thinking, systematic problem-solving and consensus-building will help move Mower County forward.

What is the top issue in this campaign?

Stutzman: “The need for long-range strategic planing. The County Board faces multiple issues and all are important — unfunded mandates, the needs of the elderly and youths, roads and bridges needing maintenance and repair, flooding, public safety. I would like to focus on bringing people together and getting things done.”

Are you satisfied with the County Board’s solution to public safety and jail over-crowding issues?

Stutzman: “While I may have made different decisions, strong leaders do not dwell on the past, but move into the future. Building here and keeping Mower County money and jobs local makes sense. I believe in investing early into prevention to effectively reduce over-crowding in jails for the future.”

The future of the Robbins block is being questioned. Should it be saved and an alternative site for geothermal needs to be selected?

Stutzman: “I would like to see all of the people interested in the future of the Robbins block come together in a facilitated strategy session to share ideas, thoughts and options for the block and its intended purpose. I strongly support developing methods of alternative energy for long-term sustainability and reduced reliance on gas and oil.”

Do we need to give more attention to the County’s roads and bridges?

Stutzman: “Yes. Although the Mower County Highway Department leverages federal and state funds, supporting local levy dollars, increasing repair and construction opportunities. Despite that, there are deficient bridges, roads needing maintenance, the increase in gas has negated revenues from the gas tax.”

“Early investment in roads and bridges is both cost-effective and essential.”

County finances; are they being handled appropriately and in the best interests of taxpayers?

Stutzman: “Balancing quality of life and property taxes, which are used to support that quality of life, is a fine balance.”

“Eighty-five percent of Mower County funds pay for mandates services. There are always ways we can be doing better, especially by investing early and cost-effectively without compromising public safety .”Final remarks?

Stutzman: “I am proud of the quality of life our community offers.”

“My leadership has added to that quality of life.”

“I know there are challenges ahead and my forward-thinking systemic problem-solving and consensus-building will help to move Mower County forward.”

“Working together, we can do better in Mower County.”

Dan

Vermilyea

Background: 20 years in the private sector including owning and operating my own business and 12 years working for county government. A resident of Lansing Township for 30 years.

Prior elective office experience:None. The Mower County Extension committee is appointed by the county board. I have served on that committee for 11 years.

Why are you running for this office?

Vermilyea: “I am running to bring transparency back to county government. During the past few years, several decisions have been made that have affected each and every citizen of Mower County and some of those decisions have been made behind closed doors through negotiations, bargains and dealings. With transparency comes integrity, credibility and honesty, virtues that I will bring to the District 1 County Commissioner’s position and virtues that everyone wants to see in their elected officials.”

What is the top issue in this campaign?

Vermilyea: “The jail and justice center is the number one issue facing all the citizens of Mower County.

While I certainly realize that the project is almost complete, I do not support the establishment of a jail and justice center downtown.

I believe that any decision should be done on a needs evaluation process. Currently with a 90 day facility and renting space from surrounding counties it is apparent that there is a need to address the jail; however, I do not believe that the needs of the justice center portion are as great.

I would support a stand alone jail facility at a green space site. It would then be able to expand if or when the need accrues rather than being land locked as is the current facility.

I would support building an office-type facility on the Robbins block and develop a campus-type setting for all government services. Planning and Zoning, Human Services, Veterans Service, Extension Service, Technology Department and the county commissioners meeting room could be housed in the new facility.

This would allow the bottom level of the courthouse to be used for more space for law enforcement and court facilities.

By doing this it meets the long-term needs of the county, it meets the needs of the city and, most important of all, it will save the taxpayers of Mower County millions of dollars.

This is a win, win for everyone.”

Are you satisfied with the County Board’s solution to public safety and jail over-crowding issues?

Vermilyea: “While the county board has worked long and hard on a solution for public safety and jail over-crowding, I believe that they left some very important pieces out of their decision making process.

The long term housing issues for the Human Services department is one of those pieces.

The future of the Robbins block is being questioned. Should it be saved and another alternative site for geothermal needs to be selected?

Vermilyea: “The Robbins block should be used to develop a campus-type setting for all government services.”

Do we need to give more attention to the county’s roads and bridges?

Vermilyea: “I believe that the county board has done a good job with roads and bridges. However, I do believe that, whenever feasible, roads with solid foundations could be re-ground and re-surfaced rather than a being totally re-done. This practice would be more cost effective and less intrusive to the citizens. The U.S. Highway 218 North project is a great example of this practice.”

County finances: Are they being handled appropriately and in the best interests of taxpayers?

Vermilyea: “Certainly unfunded mandates are an ongoing concern, and the county board needs to continue to stress to state legislators how this practice effects local government but ultimately the use of tax payer monies to address the needs of the jail and justice center along with the housing of human services is the greatest concern.

With many people on fixed incomes the county has to come up with innovative solutions to fill these needs.

The county needs to make financial decisions that provide the maximum benefits and services for the least cost to the citizens of Mower County.”

Final remarks?

Vermilyea: “I believe that my experience, knowledge and expertise are essential to being a good county commissioner.

“With over 20 years as a business owner and 4-H leader along with 12 years as a public employee I have established a network of people and resources in both the public and private sector that will be beneficial in the decision making process.

“I believe that you have to be a good listener and problem-solver to understand the needs of the citizens. I believe that I have the skills and abilities to be the next District 1 County Commissioner.”