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Anderson: District 13A, its residents are ultimate priorities

STARBUCK -- Taking cues from his Republican predecessor, Paul Anderson said that if he's elected, he will follow Bud Heidgerken's example and be the kind of legislator who will represent the residents of District 13A and not simply fall in step with the party line.

He said he would "do what's best for the district" be-cause people in 13A "want someone who'll represent their interests in St. Paul" and not just follow their political party.

Anderson is making his first attempt at running for the Legislature, although he's served in other elected positions.

He was elected a Pope County Commissioner two years ago and is a former Starbuck School Board member and former township supervisor.

He is running against Bruce Shuck, DFL-Sunburg, for the seat being vacated by Heidgerken.

Anderson's experience on the County Board, and his frustration with counties being forced to deal with unfunded state mandates while functioning under mandated levy limits, led him to run for the House seat.

Anderson said he "really enjoys county government" but thinks he can "do more good for the people out here" working for them in St. Paul.

If elected, Anderson said getting the economy and budget "fixed and balanced" would be his top priority. Not one to advocate "massive tax increases," Anderson said state spending needs to be scrutinized and trimmed. Putting state prisoners in private prisons may be one way to cut state governmental spending, he said.

Anderson said the Legislature also needs to address the financial "double whammy" that rural schools are experiencing with inflation and declining enrollment, making it difficult for districts to make ends meet.

"Education funding needs to be, and is supposed to be, equal for all students in the state," Anderson said. But legislation makes funding "slanted" to metro schools. Rural schools "do a good job with what's available to them" but could "do better" with equalized funding.

He said schools, like counties and the state, should be able to receive a portion of new tax revenues from the production of wind power. Currently, schools cannot tap into those revenues, he said.

When it comes to unfunded mandates, like the state passing off the cost of attorneys for child protection cases to counties and decreased reimbursements for housing state prisoners in county jails, Anderson said -- at the very least -- communication needs to be improved between the state and counties.

As a farmer, and recognizing the importance of agriculture in District 13A, Anderson said he would like to be part of the process to make some "commonsense rules and regulations" that allow farmers to do their business while still protecting the environment. He would also like to see programs to encourage small dairy farms to modernize, which could help young people stay on the farm.

Regarding transportation, Anderson said he would not support another gas tax increase now. Because decreased fuel usage is resulting in lower revenues than expected, some transportation projects "may not get done" as scheduled, he said.

Anderson said his experience as a farmer, being active in local government and a history of working in radio and newspaper have helped him cultivate an ability to "be a good listener" and "truly hear" what people are saying.

He said his pro-life and pro-family views match that of the district. "I'm just being myself," Anderson said.

Both Anderson and Shuck live in the western half of the district. Anderson said he hopes his career as a farmer will "resonate" with residents in western Stearns County, where agriculture is a key economic driver.

He said he likes working with people and "gets a good feeling when I can help someone." Anderson said he has the "knowledge and background" to do a good job in St. Paul and he would like to serve the people of this district."

Campaigning throughout the three counties of District 13A has given him "optimism for the future" and a "renewed feeling of goodness" because of the people he's met. "People have been so friendly and receptive and willing to listen," he said.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750