Farmington-area county commissioner candidate forum set
Primary election Aug. 14
Students may be on summer vacation, but Farmington-area voters will need to keep educated on the issues to be ready for an Aug. 14 primary election.
On that day, voters will whittle five candidates to two vying in the Nov. 6 election to replace 32-year incumbent Joe Harris as Dakota County commissioner, representing District 1.
To help inform voters, Sun Thisweek and the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce will host a District 1 primary candidate forum at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 26 at Farmington City Hall.
The public is encouraged to attend.
District 1 candidates expected to appear are: Dean Birnstengel, Hastings, a retired engineer who ran against Harris in 2008; Brian Jay Budenski, Eureka Township Board chair; Christy Jo Fogarty, Farmington City Council member; Mark Henry, a Castle Rock Township business owner; and Mike Slavik, Hastings City Council member.
Candidates will make introduction and closing statements and will answer questions they will not have seen prior to the event.
Citizens are invited to submit questions for the candidates to Sun Thisweek at firstname.lastname@example.org by Thursday, July 19.
County commissioners each earn about $66,400 per year plus $1,000 lump sum and $4,752 per year car allowance to oversee the county’s actions as the delivery agent for many state and federal programs.
While the District 1 commissioner will represent Farmington, Hastings, Coates, Hampton and the townships, the representative will consider and vote on issues involving all areas of the county,
Decisions commissioners make may involve human service programs, affordable housing, county budget, transportation, environment, regional parks, taxes and land use.
It is not a part-time job, said Harris, who also has an insurance business.
“There’s no way you can show up on Tuesday morning and not have read your packet,” Harris said. “There’s a lot of background work that goes into it. A lot of people out there think we get to the County Board meeting Tuesday morning, spend a few hours making decisions and come home. That isn’t the case.”
As a county commissioner, Harris estimated he spends 30 to 50 hours per week on county business, many times as a representative on various boards and committees.
Harris said a new commissioner could expect to be appointed to eight to 10 boards, and more experienced commissioners may take leadership roles and or serve on subcommittees within those boards.
“You have to be ready to commit that time,” Harris said. “Your family has to know you’re not going to be home every night of the week, and not every Saturday or Sunday. There are always things going on.”
Commissioners should also work to keep in contact with the town boards and city councils in their district, Harris said, adding that issues can take years to resolve.
In Farmington, Harris worked 20 years before funding agreements were forged allowing a bridge and roundabout on 195th Street and Highway 3.
Harris said he has most enjoyed seeing projects come to completion and least liked dealing with newspaper reporters.
“I’ve never been pleased with many articles written,” Harris said. “It seems like you speak in a paragraph, and they print one sentence. Or they write the article and the headline is misleading.”
Harris intends to retire from politics to focus more time on his business and family.
He is not endorsing any candidate running for the District 1 seat, but said he has spoken to many of them to share his experience.
He said he advised them not to try to satisfy everyone when dealing with issues.
“If you try to satisfy everyone, you’ll never get anything accomplished,” Harris said.
Laura Adelmann is at email@example.com or facebook.com/sunthisweek.