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3 vie to run in general election for Kandiyohi County District 5 commissioner seat

Three candidates are running in the primary for the District 5 seat on the Kandiyohi County Board.

Incumbent Harlan Madsen, a dairy and crop farmer from Lake Lillian, will face challengers John Cunningham, a farmer from Atwater, and Ron Sammons, a machine shop foreman from Atwater.

Madsen was first elected to the seat in 1994.

District 5 includes the townships of East Lake Lillian, Lake Elizabeth, Fahlun, Gennessee, Edwards, Lake Lillian, Roseland, Holland, Whitefield, Harrison and Kandiyohi in southern and southeastern Kandiyohi County.

What is your number 1 campaign issue?

Cunningham: You know what one thing I've learned being on school board is, that there is no number one issue. People are looking for change at every level of government right now and most of all they want you to listen to their problems and concerns. You're a public servant; you should not have your own single agenda or issues.

Madsen: State budget deficits, resulting in cost shifts to all local governments, have had a major impact on local budgets. The shifts and unfunded mandates have created serious challenges for local officials, businesses, schools and medical providers. The economic downturn has also added complications. It is imperative that we view these challenges as opportunities to redesign government and renew partnerships. I will continue to oppose bureaucracy and mandates that drive up local costs and interfere with the local decision-making process.

Sammons: Voters rights to be heard

What is your number 2 campaign issue?

Cunningham: No answer.

Madsen: Demographic changes happening in our state and county have a profound effect on how services are delivered at a local level. Our population is aging, the work force is changing and decreasing, and our school age population is declining. These are serious concerns, particularly in rural Minnesota. We need to identify priorities based on local needs and make decisions that create opportunities for our residents. I will continue to lead efforts that identify our strengths and adapt to a changing population.

Sammons: Assure assistance programs are going to the right people.

What is your number 3 campaign issue?

Cunningham: No answer.

Madsen: Business retention and development initiatives resulting in job growth in both rural areas and municipalities is vital to our county's well-being. The new economy and the new normal will provide some good opportunities if we are pro-active. Our county needs to be aggressive in supporting value-added agriculture and adequate infrastructure. In order to be more competitive, we need to support full broadband technology for our entire population. We also must support business friendly policies.

Sammons: Unlicensed and uninsured drivers.

Why are you seeking this office?

Cunningham: Because I like doing this, being involved in decisions that affect our everyday lives.

Madsen: The single most important reason is that I care passionately about my community, my county and the people who live here. I am confident that by continuing as a member of the county board, I can assist Kandiyohi county citizens in improving the economic and agricultural climate, quality of life and overall future of the county. My experience in making practical, common sense decisions will benefit all residents. Finally, I enjoy and I am effective at working with others to make good public policy decisions that are based on facts and fairness and are in the best interest of the community.

Sammons: To get involved with our local world.

What are your qualifications?

Cunningham: Being on School Board is not much different, just a lot more dollars and people affected by this boards decisions.

Madsen: I understand the need for good management using practical decision making. I have gained valuable experience serving on multiple local and state committees and in many key leadership roles. In 2005 I was elected by my peers as president of the Association of Minnesota Counties. I met with leaders throughout the state about agriculture and rural issues. I am currently on the Association of Minnesota Counties board and represent Minnesota on the National Ag and Rural Affairs Committee.

I am the only county commissioner serving on the Drainage Work group for the Minnesota Department of Ag and the Climate Change Committee for the Minnesota Department of Health. It is vital to agriculture and rural Minnesota to have an informed voice on these committees.

I possess the communication skills essential for this office. I have had many opportunities to testify before the legislature and am frequently asked to speak to classes concerning leadership and civic engagement.

Sammons: I feel we need new direction and ideas on how to get there -- a citizen with common sense.

What are your top priorities if elected to this office?

Cunningham: To listen to the people and do the things that best help the most people of Kandiyohi County.

Madsen: My highest priority is to continue to make practical, common sense decisions that assure that the taxpayer receives the maximum value for their tax dollars. I will continue to participate in the evaluation of county structure and assess when redesign is appropriate.

I value transparent, honest communication and will continue to provide accurate information to residents in a timely manner and to assist in creating solutions.

A third priority is to diligently pursue more partnerships, whether they are private, public, faith based, etc. We must find ways to be more cost efficient (perhaps sharing personnel and technology).

A fourth priority is to advocate for the reduction and/or elimination of mandates and bureaucracy that interferes with the ability of local elected officials to be flexible and make decisions that reflect local priorities.

We must work together to create the balance necessary to keep our community healthy and set good public policy.

Sammons: To listen and to learn

If you are an incumbent, what have been your accomplishments in office? If you would be new to this office, what accomplishments can voters expect?

Cunningham: No answer.

Madsen: I am proud to be a member of a team of people that has worked to keep Kandiyohi County a great place to live and work.

Transparency in communicating information to the public -- I always have an open door (or phone) policy. I attend or host meetings with local government and civic groups. I do frequent media interviews and a monthly radio program on county business. I am gratified at the positive response that I receive.

I was on the task force that worked out the details of the joint powers agreement that created the City of Willmar/Kandiyohi County Economic Development Commission.

As chair of the Rescue Squad building project, I convened planning meetings resulting in the construction of a new facility.

I also serve as a founding member of the Joint Intergovernmental Committee. We meet quarterly to exchange ideas, information and to explore how we can better serve our communities.

Sammons: Voters can expect to be represented.

Why are you the best candidate for this office?

Cunningham: I feel we need new direction and ideas on how to get there.

Madsen: I have over 30 years of experience in serving our county. I understand the complexity of the issues and know there are not simple answers. My experience enables me to make the right decisions to find solutions for complex problems. I have the experience, knowledge, and commitment to move this county forward, especially during these challenging times. I have established a solid record of fiscal responsibility with our tax dollars as I strive to provide the best value to the taxpayers. I have built many productive relationships from the local to the national level that I have used as resources to assist me in helping to create solutions. My experience is vital as I advocate for the redesign of a complex government in order to achieve more efficient governance. My wide knowledge base, experience, excellent communication skills, and my intense commitment to common sense decisions make me the best candidate for District 5 commissioner.

Sammons: This is a beautiful county and I care what happens in it.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340