Chris Gerlach, Apple Valley, and Mike Slavik, Hastings, will join the Dakota County Board of Commissioners after each handily won contested races to fill open seats left by long-time incumbents Joe Harris and Will Branning.
According to unofficial voting results from Dakota County, Slavik, a Hastings City Council member, won the seat Harris held for 32 years with 16,355 votes, 57.9 percent of ballots cast in the race. Challenger Christy Jo Fogarty, a Farmington City Council member, earned 11,715 votes, 41.5 percent of ballots cast.
County results also found Gerlach earned 15,625 votes, 59.9 percent of ballots in that race, and Victoria Swanson received 10,300 votes, 39.5 percent of those ballots.
Incumbent County Commissioners Liz Workman and Nancy Schouweiler also won re-election in contested races all held in newly drawn district boundaries.
In an interview, Slavik thanked voters, and reiterated his pledge to represent all areas of the county’s largest and most diverse district.
He said he would attend local meetings, and identified as his top priority getting to know and work with the diverse groups in the district that includes rural townships and cities, large and small.
“I will be at city council and township meetings,” Slavik said. “I will be that representative of the county to the cities and townships. It is my priority to introduce myself and be available and present.”
The remaining two years of Slavik’s second term on the Hastings City Council will be filled by an appointment process, that will likely include candidate interviews with council members, Slavik said.
Gerlach, Apple Valley, a former Minnesota senator, said Dakota County is well-run, and he is looking forward to keeping the county a good place to live and work.
“I’m pleased and thankful that my district chose to keep me at work doing what I think is good work on their behalf,” Gerlach said.
He added that his legislative experience could be valuable in county-state relations.
“Even though there is now a DFL majority, I still know what motivates legislators and what they’re thinking,” Gerlach said. “I think that will be useful to the board and that’s something I want to participate in.”
Schouweiler an Inver Grove Heights resident on the County Board since 1999, was in a close race against fiscally conservative challenger and long-time Inver Grove Heights City Council Member Bill Klein.
She won with 13,158 votes, 50.6 percent of votes cast in the race; Klein earned 12,689 votes or 48.8 percent of that race’s ballots, according to results reported by Dakota County.
Workman, of Burnsville, easily won a second term in office, earning 15,363 votes, 61.89 percent of the 24,822 ballots cast in the District 5 race, according to Dakota County’s election results.
Challenger Dave Giles, a Dakota County highway maintenance worker, earned 9,308 votes, 37.49 percent of ballots cast in the race.
In interviews, Schouweiler and Workman expressed gratitude to voters.
“I’m so grateful because I will be able to continue on with three big projects that I’ve recently started,” Schouweiler said.
One is her role as chair of the National Association of Counties Justice and Public Safety Committee; another is chair of Minnesota’s Public Health Work Group on Mental Health; and finally her position as the only county commissioner to serve on the state task force reviewing sex offender civil commitment issues.
“Those are three big things, and I really am excited about my role in them,” Schouweiler said.
She said her goals in Dakota County are for the Robert Street transit corridor project, improving mental health services, and continuing work on conservation easements in the county.
“I’m grateful for being able to work with this great board and staff at the county,” she said. “They really make my work enjoyable.”
Workman, a former Burnsville City Council member, has served as a county commissioner since 2009, said her priorities are keeping the levy low, and reducing spending.
“One of our challenges is going to be our aging demographic,” Workman said, noting that by 2030, the county will have more senior citizens age 55 and older than it does children in grades K-12.
She said the County Board is working on the budget and priorities this week.
“We are in the process of looking at everything again,” she said. “There is a growing demand for service on counties, and finding more efficient ways to handle the things coming up.”
County Commissioners Tom Egan, Eagan, and Paul Krause, Lakeville, ran unopposed in their redrawn districts.
Krause volunteered last spring for his seat to be temporarily designated a two-year term to allow staggered terms on the board, and it will be up for election in 2014.