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Benson seeks to keep District 3 seat

BIGELOW -- With 14 years of service on the Nobles County Board of Commissioners, David Benson is seeking to maintain his District 3 board seat because he wants to continue working on some of the county's pivotal projects.

BIGELOW -- With 14 years of service on the Nobles County Board of Commissioners, David Benson is seeking to maintain his District 3 board seat because he wants to continue working on some of the county's pivotal projects.

Benson, a commissioner since 1992, grew up on the family farm in Ransom Township, west of Bigelow. He attended grade school in Bigelow, Worthington High School, Bethel College and San Francisco State University before returning to rural Bigelow in 1971 to farm.

He and wife, Sally-Anne, raised stock cows and sheep for nearly 20 years before venturing into the production of food-grade crops including soybeans, oats and wheat. Eventually, Benson plans to return to cattle grazing and seed production on native prairie.

"I've enjoyed farming my whole life," he added.

The Bensons have two children -- Heather, an elementary school teacher and librarian in San Francisco, and Anton, a wildlife biologist and prairie specialist working in the Twin Cities.

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As a county commissioner, Benson has been involved in everything from child and family services to healthcare and renewable energy.

"One of the things I'm most proud of was (developing) the family service collaborative," he said. "We were able to get all of the school districts in Nobles County, along with Public Health, corrections, family service, SMOC (Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council) and Extension ... to come around the table."

Working together, the collaborative accessed special government funding to put family advocates in each of the schools to help at-risk students. Benson's interest in the advocacy program, he said, stems from his wife's 25-year career working with Worthington Montessori School.

"The federal government gave us about 80 percent of that money," Benson said of the family advocate program.

Now, 90 percent of the funding has been cut.

"It's very frustrating to me," he said. "That's the kind of prevention work that makes a community better."

The relationships forged by the collaborative are something Benson would like to see more of in government. As a member of the Southwest Mental Health board, in the midst of planning for a regional treatment center, Benson said working together provides for sharing expertise and dollars.

"You really have to build teamwork and get people working together and working on community issues together," Benson said.

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As a board member of Community Wind South and chair of the Rural Minnesota Energy Task Force for three years, Benson's focus has been not only on working together, but also working to get language in the federal production tax credit changed to make it easier for local investors to partner in wind turbine projects.

Relating to wind energy production, Benson said he worked hard on legislation passed in 2002 that allows counties to collect a small portion of the production base tax wind turbine owners must pay. Those dollars have been used to fund education and other important programs in the county, he added.

Among Benson's concerns are the continued cuts in state and federal funding and finding the money to repair roads within Nobles County.

"The state and federal government are cutting back their funding, but counties and cities are still mandated to do the same things," Benson said. "Good government is ... a balanced partnership between the cities and the townships, the counties and the state."

As for road funding, Benson said the county had to cut "way back" on funding roads in 2001 and 2002 because of state budget cuts, and applications each of the past five years to get more roads in the county designated as county state aid highways have been rejected. He said more money must be designated for road improvements.

Benson also believes strongly in the development of a GIS (Geographic Information System) for Nobles County, which will allow county departments to improve accessibility of information for the public.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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