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Meet the candidates: Jackson County Commissioner District 5

JACKSON -- Three candidates will compete for votes in the Aug. 9 primary election in Jackson County Commissioner District 5. The seat is currently occupied by David Henkels, who is not seeking reelection. Seeking to take the seat are candidates J...

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Eigenberg

JACKSON -- Three candidates will compete for votes in the Aug. 9 primary election in Jackson County Commissioner District 5.

The seat is currently occupied by David Henkels, who is not seeking reelection. Seeking to take the seat are candidates James Eigenberg, John Hay and Wayne Rasche.

The primary will narrow the field from four candidates to three candidates, who will face off in the general election Nov. 8.

The Daily Globe posed questions to each of the candidates to give you, our readers, information to make a more informed decision on Aug. 9. Their unedited responses are as follows:

Name: James Eigenberg

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City or Township in which you reside: City of Heron Lake, with my wife Ruth and our three boys

Occupation: Self-employed farmer since 1986, Director on the board for New Vision Co-op

Qualifications for public office: I am a life-time resident of Heron Lake area, and have always wanted the best for my home community. I have supported area businesses, helped citizens where needed, and taught Sunday school and served on several boards and offices with my church. I graduated from Heron Lake-Okabena High School in 1985 and afterwards completed an agricultural production program at the college in Worthington. I have also earned my private pilot’s license. On a personal level I consider myself to be very dependable, dedicated and effective.

As a farmer, I have weathered the unpredictable and challenging aspects of the job, which is

probably my biggest accomplishment. I also worked for Kirchner Wheel, Inc. of Dundee, Minnesota, for over 20 years, doing everything from delivering dual wheels to working sales at farm shows from California to Maryland. I really grew in my understanding of people and how to work with them from this experience.

With New Vision Co-op, which is similar in scope and size to Jackson County, I have spent 11

years on the board, eight of which were on the Executive Committee. I was very privileged to work with a talented group of employees and a dedicated board as they worked to advance the company.

What is your top priority in county government? My top priority in government is that it creates a favorable environment for its citizens to run successful business and live good lives. This should be accomplished at a good price, as taxes should be fair and logical.

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Roads and bridges should be on everybody’s mind. I am confident that the county is already on

top of this and I will support every effort to make our infrastructure the best it can be.

I am also concerned about the county ditch systems. Some of these are very old and in need of

upgrades or complete replacement. If the county plays a lead role in this we can succeed on making sure the next generation will be able to use these systems the same as what the previous owners and operators did.

Explain ideas you have to address your top priority: The best way for me to address the priorities is to get acquainted with fellow commissioners, top government employees and elected officials. Getting a handle on what the county is currently working on and getting to know everybody is critical. I am a firm believer in teamwork and cooperation, and I will do my best to get involved and be a constructive part of the decision making process. This will take some time regardless of who gets elected, and my experience with New Vision will help me with

this transition. After that I will introduce any new ideas when proper and right.

What would you like to see accomplished in the county in the next four years? I believe that real estate taxes should be fair. Living here isn’t for free, but we should realize that government can’t solve many of the problems that exist in society. To do this takes fiscal discipline. The first part is to control spending. The second part is to get as efficient as possible, which is what it takes to be successful, whether you are operating a business or a county. Thirdly, the amount of technology and high-tech equipment has changed a lot over the last 10 years and making it work will be the county’s job with the help of the county officials.

The county ditch systems are very much on top of my list also and I think the county commissioners can play a lead role in helping to solve some big problems that are possibly coming at us in the future. These are complex water management systems that could be over 100 years old. Modern agriculture will need good drainage systems to be productive and that is the way I think it should stay.

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Additional comments: If elected I will take the job seriously, as I did with my other responsibilities. I plan on completing my final year with New Vision Co-op but after that will not serve on any other boards or projects that will distract me from being the best commissioner I can possibly be. I have really enjoyed getting to know many of the people of the area and look forward to meeting more of you. I want the citizens of my district to come to me with their questions and concerns, and I appreciate your help moving Jackson County forward. Thank you for your support.

Name: John Hay

City or Township in which you reside: Heron Lake

Occupation: Self-employed farmer

Qualifications for public office: Over the past 30 years, I have had the opportunity to serve my community in a number of leadership roles. As a former mayor of Heron Lake, I worked collaboratively with the City Council to bring new and innovative opportunities for the community and surrounding areas. Currently, I serve as the Heron Lake Ambulance Director, member of the Heron Lake Fire Department, member of the Heron Lake City Council and vice-president of the Minnesota Soybean Processors Board. Given my leadership roles and responsibilities, the greatest qualification I will bring to this position is having well-rounded knowledge and experiences about local and state. I will utilize my knowledge and experiences to collaborate with other representatives within the county.
What is your top priority in county government? One of our greatest areas of concern facing District 5 is the declining population and number of local businesses. The other districts in the county have many prospering local business, which positively benefit our county as a whole. Not only does this attract and retain families and individuals to this area, it also helps grow our communities further.

Explain ideas you have to address your top priority: We need to create an environment to encourage a migration back to our rural communities because they add to our workforce, church involvement, community support and school enrollment. We need to provide an affordable opportunity for people to start or expand businesses. This may include tax incentives, low-interest loans and other incentives including community support for our businesses.

What would you like to see accomplished in the county in the next four years? As a representative for my district, I hope to accomplish continued collaboration with other district representatives in order to meet the needs of our community as well as surrounding areas within our county. This will be achieved by ensuring open communication with the community members I serve. I value feedback and suggestions from members of our community and intend to be an advocate for my area.

Name: Wayne Rasche

City or Township in which you reside: City of Heron Lake

Occupation: Self-employed farmer and small business owner

Qualifications for public office: I have had the opportunity to serve Jackson County through a variety of appointed public office positions. I currently serve as a member of the Heron Lake Watershed Board, Heron Lake Economic Development Administration, Heron Lake Tree Board, and Heron Lake Revolving Loan Fund Committee. I also was elected to serve as a member of the Heron Lake City Council. As a lifelong resident of Jackson County, I understand the value of staying informed, asking questions and lending time and effort to provide services our communities need and want.

What is your top priority in county government? My top priority as a candidate is to address the critical infrastructure needs of Jackson County. The county commission is responsible for providing its citizens and local business owners with reliable roads, bridges and other infrastructure. Reliable infrastructure keeps our families safe and makes large- and small-business development possible and attractive in our area. With many of the 220 bridges in the county needing improvements or replacement, we must prioritize this deferred maintenance for the safety and livelihood of our communities. As Jackson County Commissioner, I will focus on addressing our infrastructure needs with responsible spending and creative problem-solving to avoid unduly taxing our citizens.

Explain ideas you have to address your top priority: My first task as county commissioner will be to ask some important questions about needs versus wants across the board in the county. Needs and wants are often treated as one and the same, but categorizing them separately is an important first step on the path to responsible spending. As a small business owner, I understand the importance of scrutinizing expenses when there is only so much money to go around. It is a common-sense approach, but one that seems to get lost in some areas of government. Longer term, spending needs to be geared toward those initiatives that will bring the biggest return on investment. For instance, fixing our aging infrastructure is an investment that will make Jackson County an attractive place for new businesses, new jobs and new residents. Over time, attracting new businesses and growing our communities will help put the county in a sustainable pattern of growth.

What would you like to see accomplished in the county in the next four years? In the next four years, I would like to see Jackson County in a sustainable pattern of growth with an increasingly diverse economy. It is important for the county commission to set the stage for growth by prioritizing spending and strategically investing in areas that translate into long-term growth of our county tax base. I would look into incentivizing additional investment in small business development and wind and solar power generation. We need to make Jackson County a competitive market for business growth, providing new, good-paying jobs and increasing our tax base. We should invest in these opportunities now. As new jobs and families come to Minnesota, it is important to make sure we bring those to Jackson County.

Additional comments: One of the most limiting ways of thinking is “But we’ve always done it this way.” Thinking outside the box, analyzing the situation from all sides and challenging others to think differently are all strategies I will employ as Jackson County Commissioner. I will not be limited by the status quo, and I will “sweat the small stuff” so-to-speak when doing so leads to responsible spending and better solutions that our hard-working citizens and taxpayers deserve.

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