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Voter Guide: Thomson Township Supervisor, Seat D

 

October 2, 2020

Jason Paulson (incumbent)

Background

Born and raised in Thomson Township, graduate University of Minnesota, ten-year Marine Corps veteran, current airline pilot and assistant chief pilot/instructor at Lake Superior College. Husband of an environmental engineer, MN Water Quality designated cattle farmer on the Midway River. Steadfastly served the community as township supervisor for four years. I am the treasurer for our ambulance service provider- Cloquet Area Fire District, Arrowhead Regional Development Commission appointee, Carlton Honor Guard member.

What made you decide to run for township office this year?

I am very proud of the community we live in. I believe we are progressive in nature, never afraid to make a change to better quality of life. Yet we're fiscally conservative, evident by our township's healthy net position. I believe there is more work to be done.

Thomson Township is growing. Do you think the township is on the right course or not? Explain.

Absolutely. A growing tax base increases funding opportunities, but doesn’t mean unchecked spending. Township tax levies remain historically below inflation. An elected official's greatest responsibility is wise spending. We finished 2019 on budget — yet approved $274,000 in capital expenditures including a city sewer expansion.

During my term we hired Thomson Township's first zoning officer who has spearheaded an update to our comprehensive plan for the future. I believe we owe it to the founders of a once agrarian community to get it right. I do not want Thomson Township to look like communities to our north and east.

What do you think are the two biggest issues facing the township and how would you like to see them addressed?

While internet access is important, it is not one of the two biggest issues.

My biggest concern is maintaining paramedic Advance Life Support (ALS) service to our community at a cost we can afford. I represent our community on the Cloquet Area Fire District Board and strive to see this level of emergency care maintained for our community. We don't know it’s there until we need it. You will note a fire district tax levy increase of 4 percent on taxes due to the purchase of three new ambulances.

Second, our four-lane County Highway 61 is due for a full rebuild in the next four years and it may be replaced by a two lane highway. I understand the county level perspective that four lanes is a tough sell when Highways 2 and 210 have higher traffic counts with two. That said, I want to be part of that conversation and spearhead what is best for the community. If we lose the four lanes, we should get a full, community length trail to replace the westbound lanes. A bike, pedestrian, snowmobile trail that can link us westward to Cloquet/Carlton and eastward to Munger and DWP trails.

Why should people vote for you?

I have the experience, energy and passion. If you feel like our community is heading in the right direction, I urge voters to stay the course and vote for me.

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Eric Rish

Background

I have lived here more than 50 years. I retired from the Duluth Police Department as an area commander, with 29 years of law enforcement experience. I volunteered 20 years at the Thomson Fire Department. I recently served on the Cloquet Area Fire District and the Esko Sports Alliance Board.

What made you decide to run for township office this year?

The township is very important. Being retired allows me time to work for the township. Although the 2040 plan is stalled for now, I want to be part of this plan to ensure Thomson Township continues to have a balance between small town appeal and desires of the 21st century.

Thomson Township is growing. Do you think the township is on the right course or not? Explain.

Yes, I believe we are moving in the correct direction. The board needs to understand the citizens’ concerns from sewer lines to safe pathways for recreation. We have to trust that the township employees are representing the board appropriately when given expectations. The board’s role should be big picture rather than being involved in standard purchasing. The hiring of additional personnel and updating outdated infrastructure is the direction we need to take. I would continue to recognize the school district as our identity, but work to build other corner stones for the community.

What do you think are the two biggest issues facing the township and how would you like to see them addressed?

I believe we are faced with issues of growth. Many members of the community would like to see additional housing or more retail options. The township needs to understand the situation we are facing. The pandemic has changed my outlook on commerce. Our location to neighboring cities of Duluth and Cloquet have made us a bedroom community. I would look to build from that premise and look to support housing opportunities for families and individuals while keeping the “feel” of our community.

Secondly, is how we will sustain our current community. I believe we have developed a supporting identity to Thomson Township. These values brought an excellent school, but an identity needs to go beyond the school and be inclusive to everyone who lives here. To me, that means developing additional opportunities for home-based businesses and building out additional recreational trails or parks. I know we have numerous subject-matter experts living in the community ranging from business owners, to realtors, administrators, to educators who we need to draw in and encourage action.

Why should people vote for you?

A vote for me brings a 55-year member of the community to the board with proven problem solving abilities, high ethical standards and abilities to build relationships. I will ask the difficult questions and bring results.

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Russell Kurhajetz

Background

We picked Esko because of the rural setting with strong community focus. I am the elected chair of the Carlton County Soil and Water Conservation district working with Carlton County Commissioners, the MN legislature, and serve as vice chair of the St Louis River- One Watershed One Plan Policy Committee.

What made you decide to run for township office this year?

I have been to town board and steering committee meetings and have not seen many parents of the busy families represented. I have the time and would continue the direction of many past supervisors who delicately balance growth/change while evaluating impact on the residential tax base.

Thomson Township is growing. Do you think the township is on the right course or not? Explain.

Yes, this is a key reason I ran. I want to be a part of the discussions happening involving the Esko Safe Routes to School plan and then Arrowhead Regional Development Commission. We picked Esko because it is safe with a strong family-focused community. We can quietly enjoy our land and animals, yet safely walk to nearby neighbors or the Buffalo House. Potable water and sewer are a key barrier, but residents paying for the multi-million infrastructure may not be realistic. I support following the recommendations from the 2040 comprehensive plan.

What do you think are the two biggest issues facing the township and how would you like to see them addressed?

There is a perception that major problems exist, but Esko is a strong “rural suburb.” When I moved here, I briefly interacted with Davis Helberg and also went to a Esko Historical Society meeting. When Highway 61 was a major route, Esko was a different community. Today we have a variety of people primarily working outside the community. Our school parking lot is regularly full. There are many perceived wants and needs currently being solved outside our community. A key issue I see here is a struggle of what people want and what the community will support. There were school-partnered business ventures that could be revisited to give opportunities to our student entrepreneurs. We often underestimate what our youth can accomplish. I would like to work on economic development strengthening their voice and giving them opportunities.

Esko doesn’t rank very high on bikeability and pedestrian traffic. Our shift to pave roads keeps dust down and cars clean, but were you safer walking/biking down a dirt road or paved road? What have we given up in this process? Solutions for this can be more bike trails or a wider acceptance of bikes/pedestrians on our newly paved roads.

Why should people vote for you?

I have the time, energy and willingness to serve the community. I enjoy the family focused ‘rural suburb’ and want to keep much of it the same, while exploring economic development opportunities.

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Ron Gittings

Background

We have lived in the area for 30-plus years and relocated to Thomson Township five years ago. I retired after teaching at FDLTCC and at UMD. While living in Cloquet I served in a number of capacities including on the school board, police advisory board, and the community visioning project.

What made you decide to run for township office this year?

I have always been interested in local governmental issues and now being fully retired, have time and interest to serve if elected.

Thomson Township is growing. Do you think the township is on the right course or not? Explain.

Indeed, the population is growing, adding an additional 400 or so residents from 2019 to present according to US Census estimates. I think the township is pretty much on the right path by engaging in a new comprehensive plan that attempts to look out 20 years. While certainly nobody has a crystal ball, it is prudent to anticipate changes. I feel it important that there is history and continuity in township governance, but also new eyes and experience to add to the representation of our citizens.

What do you think are the two biggest issues facing the township and how would you like to see them addressed?

I think a large issue that all communities face is one of taxation and wise use of tax revenue. The township is one actor in the taxation picture. The county and schools have a taxing authority as well. Total tax levies must be considered when the board is making funding decisions and expansions of township services. The acceptance of any new taxing authority that would weaken local control is also an issue that can creep up on people and often happen without the taxpayers being fully aware of how any new taxing authority can dramatically change one’s total tax picture.

Why should people vote for you?

The voters have some really good choices regarding supervisor candidates. I’m a thoughtful person who attempts to boil down how government actions can affect peoples’ lives, livelihoods, and opportunities. I listen and would be accessible.

 
 
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