Ahlers unseats Zylstra in Commissioner District 1
WORTHINGTON -- Political newcomer Justin Ahlers unseated the senior member of the Nobles County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday. Justin Ahlers garnered 1,010 votes to First District incumbent Marv Zylstra's 720 votes. There were four write-in v...
WORTHINGTON - Political newcomer Justin Ahlers unseated the senior member of the Nobles County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.
Justin Ahlers garnered 1,010 votes to First District incumbent Marv Zylstra’s 720 votes. There were four write-in votes cast.
Ahlers, who spent the evening watching the results come in with family and friends, offered thanks to his supporters, and the election workers for getting the results in in a timely manner.
“I would also like to thank Marv Zylstra for his many years of service,” Ahlers said. “As your new county commissioner, I will always be open to your opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me anytime. Thank you for going out to vote in this election; I look forward to serving the residents of District 1 for the next four years.”
Ahlers spent Tuesday morning inside the county board room, listening in as commissioners approved a $10 million bond for road improvement projects in 2017.
“I definitely think that was a very good idea, especially when we’re looking at the blacktop prices that we have been seeing,” Ahlers said. “I think we need to continue looking forward with road and bridge projects.”
Ahlers said he will continue to focus on transportation issues in the county, and said space issues with the library and historical society need to be addressed.
Zylstra, who offered well-wishes to Ahlers prior to the county board meeting, reflected briefly on his 14 years of service as a Nobles County commissioner. He was first elected to the District 1 seat in 2002.
“I think my greatest accomplishment was working with my communities - Brewster, Round Lake,” Zylstra said. “Early on when Farley’s & Sathers announced they were shutting down, I met with the council right away.”
Today, the former Sathers complex is once again occupied - something Zylstra said he is proud of.
“I tried hard to be a good spokesperson for the district,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of difference of opinion. I guess the library was the big issue. My opinion on the library hasn’t changed, and I still stand by that. Now it’s up to the new board to move forward and see where it goes.”
Zylstra said he’s saddened at the loss of his board seat, but said it will free up time to do other things, like get more involved in theater.
Running unopposed in Tuesday’s election were Third District Commissioner Matt Widboom and Fourth District Commissioner Bob Demuth Jr. They were re-elected to their posts with 1,331 votes and 1,433 votes, respectively.
Widboom offered his thanks to the voters for supporting his effort to represent them, saying that he has learned a lot during his first four years in office. This next four-year term will be his last, as he made a campaign promise to seek only two terms in office.
“There’s no question in my mind that new ideas are very important,” he said. “I believe term limits should be imposed at every level, from county government (on up). I look forward to someone else having the opportunity to learn and see how government operates.”
Widboom said the county has achieved great things in trying to partner with communities and work across boundaries - something he set as a personal goal coming into county government.
“Through the past four years, we’ve put together a list of goals to accomplish from an improvement standpoint,” he said. “Roads constantly came to the top. On Election Day, we’re finally putting our money where our mouth is. Doing 70 miles of roads in one year is a big project.”
The next step is addressing some of the capital improvement needs. Widboom said such projects are being done with taxpayer impact in mind.
Demuth said there remain a lot of issues before the county, and during the next four years, he anticipates health insurance costs, road and bridge investments and the county and judicial ditch system to be hot-button issues.
During his first six years on the county board, Demuth has seen health insurance for county employees spike.
“We can’t afford to absorb the kind of double-digit increases we’ve been seeing for the past couple of years,” he said.
Looking forward, Demuth also put priority on infrastructure.
“With oil prices what they are and interest rates at all-time lows, I think we can accelerate the upgrades to our roads and bridges,” he said. “The third thing would be our county and judicial ditch system being a freckle over 100 years old and taking water that it was not intended to take. We’re currently taking a repair-as-needed approach, and I think we need a comprehensive review and to prioritize our county and judicial ditch system.”
Demuth said he looks forward to continuing to work with his constituents to make Nobles County a lean operation.