Two Dakota County district primaries will be held
Several candidates wait until deadline to file
The Dakota County Board of Commissioner races are off, with enough candidates filing to require primary elections in two commissioner districts Aug. 14.
Primary elections will be held in District 1 that includes Farmington, Hastings and the townships and in Burnsville’s District 5.
District 1 was represented for 32 years by Joe Harris of Hastings who did not seek re-election, and Liz Workman is completing her first term in District 5.
Challenging Workman are Peter Beckel, a retired teacher and investor who has lived in Dakota County about 25 years, and Dave Giles, a Dakota County highway maintenance worker and former fire fighter.
Beckel, who ran but was not elected for Burnsville School Board in 2008 and 2010, said he would work to curb spending and increasing governmental regulations.
Giles, a lifelong Burnsville resident, said he has always wanted to run for public office to serve the people and cited concerns about keeping roads safe, providing police protection and ensuring taxpayers get the “biggest bang for the buck.”
Workman, a former Burnsville City Council member, said she loves being a commissioner, and has learned so much about the county in her first term.
“We are a very well-run county,” Workman said. “I just want very much to continue to be a part of it.”
Six candidates filed to fill the District 1 seat: Dean Birnstengel, Hastings; Brian Jaye Budenski, Eureka Township; Christy Jo Fogarty, Farmington; Mark Henry, Empire Township; Mike Slavik, Hastings and Terry Donnelly, Farmington.
Birnstengel said he wants to bring “common sense and hard work” to the county, emphasizing the need for governments to work cooperatively.
A lifelong Dakota County resident, Birnstengel said he has served on several boards and commissions, including the St. Paul Planning Commission; he ran against Harris in 2008.
Budenski is chair of the Eureka Township Board of Supervisors. He said he believes District 1 needs a new voice, citing concerns about maintaining property rights amidst increased watershed regulations and advocated for stronger representation for townships and the cities in the district.
Fogarty is a Farmington City Council member who said her experience working with townships allows her to understand the challenges and attributes of the rural parts of the county.
She is interested in human service issues, such as finding ways for low-income people to have access to dental care and would work to cut red tape to promote business development and expansion, as has been done in Farmington.
Henry is a Castle Rock resident who owns an excavating business, grades township roads and serves on the township’s road committee.
He said he has experience with budgeting and good working relationships with county and township officials.
Noting the rural nature of the district, Henry said he would work hard to represent township issues, including water and roads, but also said he would address the concerns of Farmington and Hastings residents.
Slavik is a Hastings City Council member midway through his second term and small business owner. He said he understands the affect government has on business, “good and bad.”
Citing concerns about the aging population and limited funding, Slavik called for innovation and collaboration, to redesign government to provide services without duplicating efforts.
Like Fogarty, Donnelly is also a Farmington City Council member; he also served as a Farmington School Board member.
While Fogarty announced her intention to run for Dakota County commissioner early on, Donnelly held back and filed for the open seat on the last day.
When Will Branning announced a few weeks ago he would not seek re-election in District 7 after 15 years in that office, he endorsed Apple Valley Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland for the seat.
Although she then announced she would seek the job, she did not file for candidacy.
Hamann-Roland said she decided against running after some “soul-searching,” and hearing from disappointed residents who urged her to remain as mayor.
She added the city has many projects going on, including Cedar Avenue Bus Rapid Transit and related business development, that requires support.
“We have a lot on our plates right now,” she said.”I just couldn’t leave it.”
A race will still occur in the district.
State Sen. Chris Gerlach, who served eight years in the Minnesota Senate and announced he would not seek re-election to that office this fall, will run for the District 7 commissioner seat.
He will be challenged by Victoria “Vicki” Swanson of Apple Valley who evidently filed late June 5, shortly before filings closed.
In an interview Wednesday, Gerlach cited his experience and proven track record as a “responsive public servant.”
He said he will be forthright about issues and represent citizens’ interests.
“I think I’m a good match for the majority of citizens in the district,” Gerlach said.
Swanson did not return a call seeking comment.
Challenging Nancy Schouweiler in District 4 for the second time is Bill Klein, an Inver Grove Heights City Council member, who told Sun Thisweek he wants to reign in spending.
He cited concerns about property rights, including his work to rid governmental regulations over community gardens in Inver Grove Heights, and was critical of the county’s use of lobbyists and trips commissioners have taken to conferences and Washington, D.C.
Schouweiler, chair of the County Board of Commissioners, said she is proud of her role in the county’s achievements, which include maintaining the lowest county tax rate in the state.
She said her trips have brought millions into county coffers, and noted her service as a member of the National Association of Counties Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee.
Schouweiler also serves on the Minnesota State Advisory Council on Mental Health’s Subcommittee on Children’s Mental Health by governor appointment.
County Commissioners Tom Egan, representing Eagan, and Paul Krause, Lakeville, are running unopposed.
Laura Adelmann is at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/sunthisweek.