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Two Kandiyohi County commissioners won't seek re-election

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WILLMAR -- Two longtime Kandiyohi County commissioners will not be running for re-election this year.

And depending on how the county is reshaped after redistricting is completed this spring, other county commissioners could be forced to run for re-election before their current term is done.

Kandiyohi County Chairman Richard Larson, from Willmar, has told county officials he doesn't intend to file for election this year.

He's represented District 2 since he was first elected in 1997.

Dennis Peterson, from rural Spicer, said he intends to make a formal announcement at Tuesday's County Board meeting that he will not seek another term in office.

Peterson, 73, has represented District 4 since he was first elected in 1993.

In an interview this week, Peterson said he decided in the last month or two that he would retire, putting an end to 55 years of public service that's also included stints on the Green Lake Township board of directors and the New London-Spicer School Board.

He cited construction of the county's Health and Human Services Building and new Law Enforcement Center, expansion of the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District and creation of the Kandiyohi Area Transit system has accomplishment's he's proud of, along with receiving the Presidential Award - the state's top honor for a county commissioner - in 2003.

Peterson said he's enjoyed his tenure on the county board but after 20 years it was time for someone else to step in.

He said he's already heard from people who are interested in running for his seat and he expects enough people will file for office that a primary election will be necessary.

Larson was out of town and not available to comment on this story.

The commissioners' decision not to run, along with Auditor Sam Modderman's announcement earlier this month that he was retiring after 25 years as an elected official, will change the face of Kandiyohi County.

After redistricting of the county is completed, the geographical boundaries of some of the commissioners' district will also likely change.

The latest census figures show the population has increased in the northern part of the county and decreased in the southern half.

County Administrator Larry Kliendl said he expects the fifth district, currently represented by Commissioner Harlan Madsen, will have to expand in land size to gain more people, while Peterson's fourth district will have to shrink.

Kleindl said it appears that every township in Peterson's district, which includes New London and Green Lake Townships, gained people while every township in Madsen's sprawling southern district has lost people.

Fine-tuning the balance in population between the county's five districts could also affect other commissioners.

If the change in population in a district is 5 percent of the average of all districts of the county, then those commissioners must run for re-election this year, even if their terms don't expire now.

Kleindl said state law allows counties to stagger the terms of office during the transition. That means some commissioner candidates this year will serve two-year terms and others will be elected to four-year terms.

Staggering the terms will prevent the possibility of large turnovers in office holders at the same time.

Counties are the last entity on the list for redistricting.

The State needs to complete the process of reshaping legislative districts by Feb. 21 and cities have until April 3 to reshape precinct boundaries.

Counties have until May 1 to plan their districts, Kleindl said.

Counties are last on the list because counties cannot divide a city precinct to balance the population in county commissioner districts.

The county districts can, however, include only a portion of a particular ward. City wards are made up of multiple precincts.

Kleindl said he'll be working with the county commissioners and auditor to decide how the county boundaries will look for the next 10 years.

He said there is pressure to complete the work by the May 1 deadline because filing for office begins May 22.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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