Madsen touts experience, knowledge

WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi County Commissioner Harlan Madsen says his experience and knowledge make him the better candidate. If Harlan Madsen isn't already at a meeting, he probably has one scheduled on his calendar within the next hour or he's on his...

WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi County Commissioner Harlan Madsen says his experience and knowledge make him the better candidate.

If Harlan Madsen isn't already at a meeting, he probably has one scheduled on his calendar within the next hour or he's on his cell phone lining up a meeting to discuss issues that could range from drainage ditch problems to legislative mandates that are squeezing county finances.

That kind of hectic schedule is a daily occurrence for Madsen, a 12-year member of the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners, who said the office isn't a part-time responsibility but is a full-time job. He said he could easily spend 18 hours a day, seven days a week doing county business. The 57-year-old dairy farmer from rural Lake Lillian is running for his fourth term on the Board from the Fifth District, which includes the southern half of the county.

He is being challenged by Andrew Lindquist, 31, of rural Willmar.

Madsen said his "sound, long-term experience," leadership and practical knowledge make him the better candidate. If re-elected, the knowledge he's gained during his years in public service can be used for the betterment of Kandiyohi County, he said.


Madsen said he brings strong communication and problem-solving skills, passion, dedication, integrity, high moral standards and "a love of community" to the job. "You get out of it what you put into it," he said. "And I put in 150 percent."

He's fond of saying that farming is his "vocation" but serving on the County Board is his "advocation."

When asked to identify top issues in the county, Madsen listed state and federal funding cuts; water; chemical dependency/mental health issues; economic development; protecting children, families, senior citizens and vulnerable adults; and transportation.

Different issues rise to the top of the urgent list on a daily basis, depending on the need of the county resident who's on the other end of the telephone, looking for a solution and resolution to a problem, said Madsen, who discussed his list of priority issues at length during a recent interview.

Reduced funds from the federal and state governments have cut deep into intervention, prevention and education programs, such as the youth smoking and pregnancy prevention programs, which could mean paying higher costs in the end, Madsen said. "We trip over a dollar to save 50 cents," he said. "I find it very disconcerting."

Counties continue to struggle with meeting the requirements of government mandates even though the funding has disappeared. Madsen said he's concerned that the short-term savings will result in long-term challenges for individuals and counties in the future.

To address chemical dependency and mental health care needs, Madsen said the Kandiyohi County Board has to "step up to the plate" and financially support outcome-based programs that are proven to be successful. He said it's "never appropriate" to stigmatize people with chemical dependency and mental health issues and board members should also "lead by example" and be advocates for people.

Every aspect of water and its infrastructure -- lakes, storm sewers, drainage ditches, wells, municipal sanitary sewer systems and individual septic systems -- are another high priority for Madsen. "Somebody is always downstream," he said.


Replacing the "aging and crumbling" sewer systems in rural communities and failing septic systems is a major challenge for preserving water quality and health standards, he said. Requiring inspections of septic systems when homes are sold and when building permits are sought within areas zoned as shoreland are two positive programs the county has implemented, he said.

He praised the county's investment in financing trunk-line extensions to the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District. He said he's been involved with efforts, including a group he called the "Buffer Bunch," to promote buffer strips along drainage ditches to reduce erosion.

When it comes to economic development, Madsen said agriculture and associated value-added products, including renewable energy, are major factors for the county. He said a positive attitude is the best tool when it comes to economic development in a community.

Protecting residents, especially children, the elderly and other vulnerable adults, requires the County Board to be a watchdog, Madsen said. "It's the core function of government" and requires priority funding.

Madsen said the best part of being a commissioner is working with people to find resolutions to difficult problems. The most challenging aspect is balancing the high demand of his time for county duties with his job and his family.

He said he wants to continue his work as a commissioner to serve people and to "be able to say that I made a difference during the time God's given me on this earth."

If there was one thing he could change about Kandiyohi County, Madsen said he'd like to see the people of Kandiyohi County become interrelated and pull together in one direction, much like different teams of horses harnessed together that moving in the same, positive direction. "Together we are stronger," he said.

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