John’s Answers to questions from the Rochester Post Bulletin

What is Olmsted County’s top priority?

The most important issue facing the county is better stewardship of our limited resources which provide the foundations for our lives:  housing and development, broadband access, transportation systems, clean water, safe neighborhoods, and essential services for our children and elders. I believe decisions on these important matters should be made with all available  information and full consideration of current and future costs.

Our local government becomes more effective when opportunities are provided for the residents, workers, farmers, and business people to share their ideas. In speaking with people, I have learned that many don’t know their commissioner’s name or role. As commissioner, I will welcome and weigh all input as to how the county is run. Let’s start the conversation now.

Olmsted County commissioners serve as the bulk of the Housing and Redevelopment Authority board, which has its own property tax levy.

What do you see as the HRA’s top housing priority and how should it be addressed?

The HRA’s top priority should be to construct housing, through partnerships with private and public entities, which integrates low- and middle-income homes with market rate apartments and condos.  Simultaneously, the HRA needs to invest wisely in effective management of its current properties and consider repurposing rather than demolishing existing buildings.

The shortage of construction workers and rising costs of development and materials prevents the private market from fully responding to this critical need for housing.  The HRA needs to engage proactively to help every person have a safe, adequate place to live — especially those in single-income households. By fully supporting the HRA,  we are making a wise investment that will provide a many-fold return for our communities.

What the county board could do to continue improving its relationships with other local government entities?

The board must regularly consult with other local governments to determine the nature and quantity of county services. Our townships, cities, and county must address issues that cross jurisdictions and work together to realize economy of scale, provide effective services, and avoid “win-lose” situations.

The board should thoroughly consider issues from the perspectives of the other government entities. It can build trust by participating in ongoing discussions where listening is balanced with talking. The board can encourage collaboration to find solutions based on complete information. It is important to acknowledge that the power in relationships may be unequal; and, the more powerful entity should temper its actions and take more responsibility if the desired outcome warrants it. Good outcomes result when all parties “plant their trees together to create a forest” in meetings that are open, accessible, and held at varying days/times to encourage public participation.

What first made you interested in becoming a county commissioner?

In 1998, when my son incurred a severe traumatic brain injury, the outpouring of support we received from southeast Minnesotans during his long recovery process was tremendously uplifting for my family. Since then, I have sought opportunities to “pay it back and forward.” My volunteerism has included many rewarding experiences such as co-leading BSA Troop 56, cleaning up rivers and trails, chairing United Way campaigns, and serving as assistant treasurer at church. Now is a good time in my life as a recent retiree to step up my commitment to public service. I have worked with the County Board throughout my career as a professional engineer, and I believe my accumulated knowledge and skills can be put to the best use as a county commissioner.

The Fourth District covers the largest chunk of Olmsted County, while the board has several members representing Rochester constituents. What challenges does this bring, and how can you best address them?

District 4 is geographically large and demographically diverse with urban/suburban neighborhoods, smaller cities, townships, and agricultural and industrial lands. The biggest challenge is balancing these varied interests in a constructive manner when prioritizing needs and wants. This is best accomplished with an accessible commissioner who has the skills and tools to communicate with residents and businesses. I have established the means for face-to-face, telephone, email, website, blog, and social media dialogs. I plan to schedule periodic “coffee chats” in the communities within the district. My consensus-building experience will help me formulate the information shared in these local conversations into a strong voice during Board deliberations. Good, open communication is essential to fully evaluating potential actions and the possible impacts of Board decisions.

What makes you the best-suited candidate for the office?

Olmsted County has grown rapidly and undergone major shifts in demographics the past 20 years, as have the needs of its people and businesses. While I respect the incumbent’s 5 terms of service, I bring fresh perspectives and new insights based on my logical, forward-thinking style. With my long history of working with the Board, I am familiar with its policies, procedures and personnel. During the past months of going door-to-door, I have enjoyed connecting with people who ask good questions and offer creative solutions. My broad background of educational, vocational, and personal experiences has allowed me to relate to farmers, business owners, entrepreneurs, teachers, students, caregivers, and volunteers. As a retiree, I can dedicate my full attention to being an accessible, engaged commissioner.