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Voter Guide: Carlton County Board, District 5

Gary Peterson vs Alex French

 

October 2, 2020

Gary Peterson (incumbent)

Background

I was born and raised on a farm in Carlton County. I have had many different jobs and life experiences that give me the ability to relate and understand people. I have degrees in government, teaching, counseling and coaching. I have a great knowledge of current county issues.

What made you decide to run for county commissioner this year?

I am running out of a desire to be involved in my community. I want to make sure the tax dollars of our citizens are being spent in a fiscally and socially responsible manner.

How do you think the county should proceed on funding for a new jail if the state legislature fails to allow a local sales tax or doesn’t allocate state funding?

I am focused on getting legislative approval for a half cent sales tax. Also, we need to pursue the female regional offender program. This would create revenue to offset the cost. I am optimistic that we will succeed in our proposals. Failure is not an option for our local property taxpayers. If the timing for legislative approval is not right, we will ask the Department of Corrections for extensions until the legislature does act.

The pandemic has made people painfully aware of the importance of a good internet connection for education and people working at home. What do you think is the role of the county in helping underserved communities gain access to high-speed internet?

I think solving the rural broadband issue is equivalent to bringing electricity to the rural areas during the 1930s. The starting point for effective rural broadband programs is knowing where service is available and where it is not. We need everyone to go to the Carlton County website and follow the directions and do a speed test. This will give us an accurate broadband map and data so we can dedicate resources to unserved areas.

Elaborate on something you think the current county board has handled well over the past two years.

Concentrating on road improvements has always been a major priority for me. Many of our roads have been neglected for too long. The half-cent sales tax has been a very successful program to help us catch up. We still have much work to do. We need the State of Minnesota and the Federal Government to pass a transportation bill to provide more money so we can continue to move forward and upgrade our infrastructure.

Name one other issue facing Carlton County that you think is important, and how should it be addressed?

I have always believed that property taxes are too high in Carlton County. We must continue to find a balance between providing excellent county services while holding the line on property taxes. Carlton County does not have a huge tax base, so we must support existing businesses and encourage new developments. We have a very well educated workforce, so we must do everything we can to keep this young talent here. We are required (by the state) to deliver many mandated services, which are often under-funded or unfunded. We must work with the legislature to change this.

Why should people vote for you?

I feel I am a very hard working person who tries to represent the entire district. I will listen to citizens' concerns and ideas.

*****

Alex French

Background

I earned my Accounting degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Currently, I work as an accountant for Alaspa and Murray LTD. CPAs in Cloquet. This role puts me face to face with many county residents where communication skills are vital in addressing concerns and issues.

What made you decide to run for county commissioner this year?

The desire to play a role in ensuring that Carlton County not only maintains status quo but thrives. I would bring a unique voice and fresh eyes to current and new challenges, which is exciting.

How do you think the county should proceed on funding for a new jail if the state legislature fails to allow a local sales tax or doesn’t allocate state funding?

The project is massive but vital. Without those dollars, the answer is likely property taxes. To minimize increases, other department budgets must be scrutinized to eliminate unnecessary expenses. Also, the scope of the project needs to be examined closely. Itasca County recently approved a jail plan that will cost taxpayers an estimated $10 million dollars more than alternative options. The need for new facilities didn’t manifest overnight, the board recognized it as a priority issue for 2016-2020. However, it has been a slow process for a variety of reasons. The price tag will continue to rise until action is taken.

The pandemic has made people painfully aware of the importance of a good internet connection for education and people working at home. What do you think is the role of the county in helping underserved communities gain access to high-speed internet?

Poor internet is rampant in much of District 5. With no outside help coming to our rescue, the county must intervene. The recently awarded CARES Act funds should be used to increase availability. Property owners would appreciate seeing direct benefits without being burdened by additional increases to property taxes. I can’t say this definitively but the opportunity to lease new county owned towers to private internet providers potentially creates new revenue streams.

Elaborate on something you think the current county board has handled well over the past two years.

Reversing the ban on flavored tobacco. When the age to buy tobacco was raised to 21, there was no need for that part of the ordinance. Additionally, local tobacco retailers would have been unfairly harmed due to a drop in revenue. It also would have been an overreach on the board’s part. Local government cannot be expected to protect someone from their own unhealthy decisions.

Name one other issue facing Carlton County that you think is important, and how should it be addressed?

There are far too many overlooked opportunities for economic expansion to not address the issue by providing resources and financial assistance when practical. Raising the visibility of our Department of Economic Development and increasing community engagement will drive growth. Sweetly Kismet is a prime example of a new business flourishing and they opened during the pandemic. The store now provides jobs and family entertainment to the area in addition to increasing the county’s tax base. In speaking with the owners, their experience working with the county was positive. The county must serve as an ally not an adversary for businesses.

Why should people vote for you?

Voters elect a commissioner to be their voice at the county level. I am prepared and excited to selflessly serve as that voice.

 
 

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