WILLMAR -- As a first-time candidate for the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners, Jim Butterfield said he would bring a "fresh set of eyes" if elected .
Every organization needs someone who will take a look at issues in a new way and bring different ideas and "an enthusiasm to the table," said Butterfield.
Butterfield, of Willmar, is challenging Commissioner Richard Falk for the post of District 1 commissioner.
The district includes all of Ward 2 and Precincts 2 and 3 of Ward 1 in Willmar.
Butterfield said his experience as director of sales for Peart & Associates, his involvement in church and a weekly Bible study that he and friend conduct at the county jail that allows him to "make a difference one prisoner at a time" have all given him the necessary skills to be an effective county commissioner.
"I think it's a real good fit. Being a sales person, you have to wear many hats," he said. He's learned to "solve conflicts with creative solutions" and to get along with and respect the opinions of a variety of people.
"Problem-solving is one of my biggest assets," said Butterfield, who said he takes time to research issues and does not make "snap decisions."
He also prides himself in mastering the "art of negotiation" and having the "ability to adapt to change and to know when to change and how to change."
When it comes to ideas for streamlining government, Butterfield said the state needs to "loosen up on how counties conduct their business."
Butterfield praised the county's vision for economic development that involves supporting existing businesses and job creation. "Where there are jobs, there's hope," he said. Butterfield said he'd like to see more incentives to give small local companies a competitive chance when bidding for county projects in order to keep jobs in the county.
In terms of what could be done better in the county, Butterfield expressed concern about the perception that Kandiyohi County's public financial assistance is easy to get, pays a lot and is subject to fraud. It's the single most-talked-about topic that he has heard from constituents while campaigning.
If that perception of welfare fraud is not an accurate reflection of reality, he said, then something should be done to change that belief. But if there are problems with the public assistance system, then that needs to be changed, Butterfield said.
He suggested using volunteers to check addresses and employment status of applicants to make sure cases don't slip through the cracks and no one obtains unwarranted assistance. He would also like to see a sign at the Health and Human Services building that says "welfare fraud is a crime."
If elected, Butterfield said his top three issues would be public safety, economic development and the issue of whether to "dispel" or "cure" the issue of welfare fraud.
He decided to run for Kandiyohi County Board after promising a friend that he would if no one else in District 1 challenged Falk. He waited to the last day to file for election, making good on his promise and believing that "I do have some good ideas and I do have some good problem-solving capabilities."
Having a job that involves traveling from the Canadian border to Iowa has required him to have an extremely organized calendar, he said, and would not conflict with the county meeting schedule.
He said he has enjoyed campaigning in the district, especially during the County Fair where he spent all four days meeting and talking to people to get the "pulse of the county." If he wins, he said he would be at the fair every year to be available to listen to what people had to say.
"Win or lose it's been a tremendous learning experience," said Butterfield. "But I didn't sign up to lose."