WILLMAR — When the filing period for candidates interested in elected office ended June 2, there were three individuals running for the District 5 seat on the Kandiyohi County Board — incumbent Harlan Madsen and challengers Duane Anderson and John O. Cunningham. That triggered the primary race on the Aug. 11 ballot.
Approximately two weeks after filing closed, Madsen, who has served on the board since 1995, made the decision to suspend his campaign due to health issues.
A lifelong heart condition flared up in the middle of June and Madsen decided it was better for him and his family if he would step away from the County Board at the end of his current term.
"Had I known, I wouldn't have filed," Madsen said.
The decision came too late to remove Madsen from the ballot. He is asking District 5 voters not to fill in the oval next to his name.
"I am not a candidate," Madsen said. "Don't cast your vote for me."
As long as voters abide by Madsen's wishes, Anderson and Cunningham will move on to the general election on Nov. 3.
Both thank Madsen for his many years of service to Kandiyohi County as they campaign to become the new commissioner for District 5, which covers most of the southern half of Kandiyohi County.
Anderson, of Lake Lillian, who has served almost as long on the East Lake Lillian Township Board as Madsen has served on the County Board, feels it is time for both bodies to move on and bring in a fresh face. He has always been interested in politics and felt he needed to take the chance to run for County Board.
"I think I have good ideas," Anderson said.
Thirty years as a farmer has also inspired him to participate in county government.
"Being farmers, we have a lot invested in the county," Anderson said. "When you have a lot invested, you have a greater interest in what is going on."
His many years of experience on the township board has provided him insight regarding road projects and planning and zoning issues, issues often in front of the County Board.
If elected, Anderson wants to make sure the county is running as efficiently as it can and in a financially responsible manner. On the other hand, Anderson said he understands there is lot the county has to do and money that needs to be spent.
"A lot of that spending is inelastic," Anderson said. "You need to plow the roads in the winter. The roads need gravel and the price of gravel is the price of gravel."
Areas of interest for Anderson include the county's ditch system and its many lakes. In the past Anderson had dealt with, and lost to, the county drainage authority and the courts regarding improvements he wanted to make to a drainage system. He said he felt like he was talking to a brick wall and would like the drainage authority to be more open to new ideas and listen better to those who come forward.
As for the lakes, he would like to see more done to deal with carp, which can cause just as much damage to a lake's ecosystem as other aquatic invasive species.
"With whatever we do, I want to make sure it is the right thing. So that what we do is meaningful and we can measure our results," Anderson said.
He is also a proponent of expanding high-speed internet in the county, especially fiber-optic opportunities. The coronavirus pandemic has made it clear that for many, their internet was not adequate for telecommuting or e-learning.
"We need to look forward into the future here," Anderson said. "Technology is going to be better and fiber optics is the best way long-term to do it."
Anderson said he wants to be involved in the decision-making process as a commissioner, but also knows it is important to delegate.
"As a commissioner I would help give guidance and direction," Anderson said.
He wants people to feel comfortable coming to him as a commissioner and will work to help find the answers to their questions.
"One of my issues, I would like to be transparent," Anderson said. "If people have issues, come to me."
John O. Cunningham
A farmer from Atwater, Cunningham is running for the Kandiyohi County Board for the second time, having challenged Madsen 10 years ago.
"This time around, I have the time and I would like to serve the county," Cunningham said.
He has held elected office, having served 15 years on the Atwater and Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City school boards. It was during his tenure that Atwater melded with the other districts, a hot button issue in the communities.
"I found I didn't mind putting my feet into the fire," Cunningham said.
He also has years of experience from his time on the Farm Service Agency County Office Committee, which provides administration for FSA programming in the county.
As a farmer, Cunningham knows how to run a business with many moving parts, background he feels will serve him well as a commissioner.
"With farming, you deal with a lot of different diversities, as far as businesses and decisions," Cunningham said.
If elected, Cunningham said he will work for a balanced budget and to keep things affordable for the county residents. However, he doesn't have a particular platform of his own, or goals he wants to achieve.
"This board isn't any different than any other, you cannot have an agenda," Cunningham said. "You need to get on there, learn in your first year or two, how the process works, what you can and cannot say, what you can and cannot do."
He said he will be a representative for his constituents and the entire county. He believes he will bring common sense and logic to the board, along with an ability to read people, which he said was a gift from his father.
"If I get on this, I am going to be for the county," Cunningham said.
He said he won't be a very loquacious commissioner, but will make sure his thoughts and ideas are heard.
"If I disagree with something, I am going to say my piece," Cunningham said. "I am not shy to say what I think."
He doesn't buy into hyperpartisan politics or the inability to listen, which is rampant in today's politics.
"People can't handle it if people don't agree with them. It's sad," Cunningham said. "I don't like the partisan politics right now."
He has disagreed with a few decisions by the County Board. He is unsure if the Willmar Wye railroad bypass project on the western edge of Willmar will be worth the $50 million it will cost, and he feels bad about the closure of the Kandiyohi County Recycling Center and sympathizes with the clients from West Central Industries who lost their jobs when the county decided to contract for single-sort recycling.
"I felt it was a sad day," Cunningham said.
That being said, overall he believes the county is doing well.
"I believe in our county, I think we are a very bustling, and a well-managed and -run county," Cunningham said.