Meet the candidates here -- and in a forum tonight

There are three candidates from Northfield running for District 2 of the Rice County Board, meaning that voters will have to narrow the field in the primary next Tuesday, Sept. 12. And now you have a chance get up to speed – in just one evening. and KYMN radio are hosting a candidate forum at 7 p.m. tonight, Sept. 7, in the City Council chambers at City Hall. Charles Skinner will be the moderator.

The candidates are: Betsey Buckheit, Galen Malecha and David DeLong (left to right, above). We have asked them all some basic questions and we’re presenting their answers here. If you have a question or comment, feel free to add it to the comments at the end of this story.

One other candidate, Bill Rossman, a former mayor of Northfield, has withdrawn from the race.

We will have complete election results Tuesday evening.

Betsey Buckheit

Years in Northfield: 17 years

Occupation: attorney, not in full-time practice

Government experience: (Appointed and elected): Northfield Planning Commission, 2001-2005 (chair, 2002-2005), Northfield Library Board

Why are you running? I believe Northfield and Dundas deserve a representative on the County Commission who understands the big picture as well as each small decision.  My four years as chair of the Northfield Planning Commission, training as an attorney and in public policy and community leadership give me the tools to understand the full range of county responsibilities from adoption to zoning; maintain a long-term, regional outlook for decision-making; and lead efforts to work with Northfield and Dundas city government, townships and private organizations for effective government.

What do you think the top three issues are facing the county and what would you do about them?
1. Sustainable development.  I will work to keep rural Rice County rural and to maintain the identity of our urban communities by keeping commercial/industrial development within municipalities.  All development should be carefully planned to minimize impact on the environment, roads, and our taxes.   Sweeping or rapid change may not be possible, but I will look for incremental steps toward economically viable compact development, forward-looking transportation planning, and preserving open space corridors.
Add any further comments you have, and any suggestions for things we can do to help voters be informed on election day?

2. Regional outlook and operation.  Few county issues stop at county borders or city limits.  I will look for ways to initiate conversation and foster cooperation among units of government and the private sector to plan for the future, and deliver services efficiently and cost-effectively.  One example for land use planning would be to follow through on Dundas and Bridgewater township efforts to establish a regional planning board.    The Mill Towns Trail joint powers board is an example of collaboration by different levels of government already showing good results; this project should have an advocate at the county commission level to ensure it stays on track.

3. Ensuring vital county services can meet the needs of our growing and changing population.  As Northfield and Dundas grow quickly and become more diverse, I will advocate for predictable funding and flexible strategies to ensure law enforcement, social services, and public health services can meet the demands of our communities.  

David DeLong

Years in Northfield: Moved here in 1960

Occupation: I work for Sodexho at Carleton College

Government experience: My first government job was two years with the U.S. Army. Elected to two terms (seven years) on the Northfield City Council. Served on various committees, including Economic Development Authority and especially enjoyed my time with the Northfield. Area Ambulance Association, which exposed me to working with Lonsdale and township officials.

Why are you running?I’m running for the same reasons I ran two years ago for the same office, I know the area and Rice County. I know the responsibilities and time requirements of being an elected official and have developed the background and experience to serve the area. We are faced with our third different commissioner in four years. I’m a fiscal conservative, socially moderate, truly nonpartisan kinda guy. I was there two years ago and I’m here now and if elected to the Rice County Board that’s where I’ll be. Don’t look for me to run for any state office.

Top three issues:
1. Zoning. I would work with the other commissioners and staff to reach agreement on zoning matters that occur from time to time using common sense to ensure we do as the ordinance says…Promote the orderly development of land areas. To protect and preserve agricultural land and the natural environment, while minimizing environmental pollutions and conflicts among land uses.

2. The Countywide Economic Development Initiative. Committee $3 had a very comprehensive recommendation for the County Board. It identifies some “hot button” issues that will take some money and a lot of discussion, along with staff and committee time. The big one for me is creating a policy that addresses issues of competition among the communities of Rice County. The participation of the stakeholders in the creation and fair administration of such a policy. Given the history of Dundas=Northfield, Northfield-Faribault, this will be very difficult, but not impossible.

3. Maintaining Rice County’s historically low per capita tax rate, while maintaining existing levels of service. I would continue to encourage the writing of grants. Mary Ho has garnered many grants for health and human services. We have also received a grant for the new voting machines that can assist people who may have had difficulty voting. You will now see one in every precinct, in addition to the regular blue stands. I believe that sometimes people can be penny wise and pound foolish.

Common sense, long term budgeting of money and resources and communicating with staff about their needs all year long, not just at budget time. Remember, Rice County’s budget last year was $34 million, including 11.2mil. for health and human services, 7mil for public safety, 5.6 mil. For highways and 7.6mil. for general government.

Other comments: Most people that live within the cities don’t give much thought to county matters, but county decision making or programs affect us each and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Make a difference, go vote.

Galen Malecha

Years in Northfield: All my life.

Occupation: Bar and events manager at the Eagles Club.

Government experience: Seven years on City Council; one year on Planning Commission.

Why are you running? I want to use my seven years of city government experience to maintain and better the quality of life for the citizens in District 2 and throughout the county.

Three key issues:
1. Growth and transportation: We need to improve our transportation system. We have $20 million worth of unfunded transportation needs throughout the county. We need to look at County Road 1. It either needs a major upgrade or we need to look at realigning it.

Garrett-Decker Avenue west of town needs to be upgraded, so it becomes a north-south artery. It would take some pressure off Highways 19 and 3 and would give people in Dundas another route to take to I-35.

2. Economic development: I think we need to work with city governments to have economic development projects put in the municipalities, not on county county land  I’m against  rezoning along I-35, because there aren’t public services there.  There also are environmental issues.

3. Health and human srvices/public health. The county is the catch-all for everybody. I’m just concerned that we need to continue to lobby our legislators to make sure the funding is there for people in need. Mental health, disabilities, single parents and some seniors. County provides the services, but financing needs to come from state and federal.