Shuck runs for fourth term
SUNBURG -- It's a beautiful fall morning and Dean Shuck is itching to get on the combine to harvest beans. But instead he will be going to Willmar to attend at least two county committee meetings that are on the docket for the afternoon. Like it ...
SUNBURG - It’s a beautiful fall morning and Dean Shuck is itching to get on the combine to harvest beans.
But instead he will be going to Willmar to attend at least two county committee meetings that are on the docket for the afternoon.
Like it has been since Shuck began serving on the Kandiyohi County Board in 2002, farming is squeezed in around his busy county commissioner schedule.
It’s a rare day when commissioners aren’t working on county business, but that pace of community service isn’t new to Shuck, who is seeking his fourth term on the board representing District 3, which includes the mostly rural northwestern corner of the county as well as several segments in Willmar, including residential areas near Foot, Willmar and Swan lakes.
He is being challenged by Rollie Nissen, of Willmar.
Shuck, of rural Sunburg, has logged 30 years of public service, including being elected to two other entities –– the Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg School Board and Arctander Township board of supervisors.
What he enjoys most about public service and being a county commissioner is “helping somebody out.”
Whether it’s an issue with zoning, regulations or roads, Shuck said being a commissioner “gives people somebody to turn to.”
He said it’s important to “listen to both sides” but sometimes there is not an easy solution to constituents’ concerns. Shuck is quick to add that “it’s not just your district that you represent” and that decisions made by the board should be good for the entire county.
“I’ve always tried to do what’s right for the county,” he said.
That often includes a fine balance of mandates to provide services and demands by constituents to keep costs low.
“The state tells you what to do and taxpayers tell you what not to do,” Shuck said.
Shuck said there were two life-changing experiences that shaped him as a person and public servant: Being drafted into the Army shortly after graduating from high school and surviving the farm crisis in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The draft was the “only lottery I ever won,” Shuck said with his trademark dry humor. He said farming during the bleak years of the farm crisis “turned me into a fiscal conservative.”
He said the biggest misconception the public has about county government is that “all we want to do is tax and spend” and that the county gives handouts.
“The county is a service organization and it’s not the county that sets the rules on who gets assistance,” he said.
He said the ongoing redesign of the county’s programs is part of the goal to provide quality services at the least cost possible.
But he said not all costs can be controlled. Health insurance rates for employees are unpredictable and the continued expense to expand the sanitary landfill requires bonding and borrowing money from the county’s general fund. He said in the past the landfill generated revenues that supplemented the general fund.
Reflecting on what Kandiyohi County is doing right, Shuck listed the strong ag economy, diversified businesses in Willmar and the ongoing redesign of county programs.
“I think it’s a progressive enough county, which is the main reason we’re growing,” he said.
When asked what needs to be changed, Shuck identified the lack of broadband Internet service as a key problem.
With an estimated $50 million price tag, Shuck said it would be impossible for the county to provide that type of infrastructure, and so far the three telephone companies serving the county have not been willing to expand or upgrade their high-speed Internet service to all corners of the county.
In terms of how the county can encourage economic growth, Shuck said, “Part of it is to just get out of the way.”
Cities do their own zoning, permitting and inspections but he said the county can –– and does –– help economic growth in towns by participating in tax abatement programs.
The presence of aquatic invasive species, including the confirmed zebra mussel population in Green Lake, continues to be a looming concern for the county.
With the help of new state funding, Shuck said efforts need to be taken to ensure zebra mussels in Green Lake are not transferred to other lakes and rivers.
If he’s re-elected, Shuck said his primary goals for the next four years is to finish up the redesign process, address the aquatic invasive species issue, try to create more affordable housing in the county and keep looking for options to resolve the shortage of broadband Internet.
He said his past experience on the board will help move the county forward.
“I think I’ve done a pretty good job over the years and I ask for their support in the election,” Shuck said.
During a candidate forum earlier this fall in Willmar, Shuck said he does not intend to seek another term in office four years from now.