Graves says it's time for a change on County Board
WILLMAR -- William Graves said he will bring a "new way to listen" to people, fresh ideas and a "willingness to do the job" if he's elected to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners.
The first-time political candidate said he will also bring what many constituents are telling him they want -- change.
Graves, a 46-year-old commercial business developer and Dominos Pizza franchise owner, is running against incumbent Richard "Dick" Larson, 77, who is seeking his fourth term in office for District 2.
Graves said he is running for office to respond to "a calling to make things better for everyone else."
He said he would serve as a "sounding board" for residents and the different county departments serving the public.
But he would also bring 30 years of experience in growing a business from the ground up -- starting as a pizza driver in Georgia in 1979 and opening his first Dominos franchise in Willmar in 1985. He now owns 47 Dominos Pizza stores in seven states.
Graves said he has "a wealth of knowledge in relationships" with contractors and vendors and has skills in negotiating contracts that could be used on the county level. "I work with numbers," he said.
While maintaining a positive attitude about the county's economic standing and budget for 2009, he said "2010 is what scares me the most." He said the county needs to explore more partnerships with the city of Willmar and other counties.
Graves has looked at the county's budget history and questions how it grew so big so fast.
Since 1995 the county's $34 million budget grew to $40 million in 1999 and $50 million in 2003. The proposed levy for 2009 is $60 million.
Graves said the current economic downturn has caused him to delay business projects and the county may have to do the same. He said, for example, building a new rescue squad building would be good, but in private business "you have to work with what you have," which can mean fixing up old buildings rather than building new.
He said he doesn't expect the country to experience a quick economic turnaround and the county budget will still be a challenge five years from now.
One way to improve the local economy -- and the way the county does business -- is to improve access to technology. He said the commissioners should consider funding a high-speed Internet system throughout the county, which would allow more people to work from home. He'd also like to see the county government's use of technology increase to make information more readily available to the public.
In responding to questions about other county issues, Graves said Kandiyohi County is fortunate to have a ready resource of gravel and is hopeful past lawsuits against the county won't be repeated. When it comes to planning and zoning issues, he said it's hard to make everyone happy, but as long as regulations are followed and people are represented fairly, the county will be fine.
Graves said he decided to run for office because he wanted to give something back to the community and make the county better. He has no personal grudge against the county and said he "didn't get into this to smear anybody."
He praised Larson but said the commissioner's age is his biggest weakness. Graves said it's time for someone new to step in and bring a new perspective to issues while gleaning advice from those with more experience. If elected, Graves said he would look to Larson as a "mentor" to help guide him through the learning curve.
He said he expects the job will consume about 25 hours a week during the beginning, a time commitment he's willing to make.
District 2 in Kandiyohi County includes Willmar Township, all of Ward 4 and part of Ward 3 in Willmar.