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Falk touts his 'well-rounded' experience

WILLMAR -- Richard Falk calls himself a "doer."

Whether it's in his role as a Kandiyohi County Commissioner, being a "book buddy" with a Willmar fifth-grader or keeping up with one of his many international friendships made from years of volunteering with overseas organizations in places like Africa, Falk isn't one to sit and watch.

"I like to do things," he said.

His "well-rounded" experience dealing with county issues, as well as past experience on the Willmar School Board, Rice Hospital Board and as a longtime Realtor have shaped him into being a "fiscally conservative, socially passionate person," he said, stressing that the combination of the two philosophies is not an oxymoron.

Falk, of Willmar, has served on the Kandiyohi County Board for the last 12 years and is a life-long resident of the county. He is seeking re-election this fall and is being challenged by political newcomer Jim Butterfield.

The seat they seek represents District 1, which includes Ward 2 of the city of Willmar and Precincts 2 and 3 of Ward 1.

"I've made significant contributions and I expect to continue that if I'm re-elected," said Falk, explaining why he's running for a fourth term. "I've done a good job. If people don't think so, they should vote me out," he said.

Among his accomplishments while on the County Board, Falk lists establishing the county-wide economic development authority, saving tax dollars by combining services between the county and city of Willmar, expanding the acreage at the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center, reducing conflicts of interest in county operations and expanding marketing options for county recyclables.

He's proud that more than 50 percent of the people he's recommended for committee appointments are women, and said his goal is to eventually help a woman get elected to the County Board.

A voracious reader, Falk said he has been able to catch some errors, or potential errors, that could have been costly to the county.

Falk said he is pleased the city and county are progressing with merging the assessor's offices and are exploring a cooperative relationship in the housing and redevelopment authority. That kind of government streamlining is necessary and may eventually be expanded to family services from multiple counties under the direction of one supervisor, Falk said. "I think it's just a matter of time."

When asked what the county is currently doing well, Falk highlighted the Family Services Department, calling it "outstanding."

When it comes to something the county could do better, he had one answer: the landfill.

He said the county is working to resolve ground-water contamination likely caused by barrels of commercial paint buried there decades ago and is exploring ways to turn garbage into energy. The county needs to "clean up some of that mess," Falk said.

If re-elected, Falk said his top priorities would be to continue implementing ways to streamline government and accelerate action to protect the county's lakes against invasive species, such as zebra mussels and Eurasian water milfoil. "We all understand what an asset these lakes are to us," Falk said.

He said he will also continue to work to make sure people with development disabilities "aren't short-sheeted." With decreasing state funding, Falk said the county cannot allow services to continue to deteriorate.

"I watch out for people," he said, especially people who have "very few spokespeople."

When asked why people should vote for him instead of his opponent, Falk said he does not have personal conflicts of interest with the county and does not represent "any special interest other than people."

Falk has denied himself some of the perks of being a county commissioner, including a county cell phone.

"I want to be squeaky clean," said Falk. "I think I have a reputation for being a straight-shooter."

Carolyn Lange

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

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