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Olson files for Brainerd council

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Two men filed Monday for Brainerd City Council, creating a three-person race for the two at-large seats and a separate race for the Ward 3 seat.

Filing Monday were incumbent Bob Olson for the at-large seat and newcomer John Magnuson for the Ward 3 seat.

Olson filed Monday for his fourth consecutive term on the council, creating a three-person race for the two at-large seats that will be decided in November.

Filing earlier for the at-large seats were Chip Borkenhagen and incumbent Mary Koep.

Olson served as a council member in the 1970s; was mayor from 1989-1990 and then was elected to four-year terms to the council in 2000, 2004 and 2008.

“I’m a firm believer that taxpayer funds should be used to meet the needs of citizens and not the wants of politicians and staff,” he said.

He said he did not vote in favor of the Beaver Dam project (water and sewer improvements), Brainerd Oaks (a housing development in east Brainerd), the Wright Street extension and two industrial parks in east Brainerd. In total, he said, these projects cost more than $6 million. As chair of the Safety and Public Works Committee, he said he worked on the adoption of a five-year comprehensive plan for sewer and street improvements and is working on another five-year comprehensive plan.

“The citizens have been well pleased with that,” he said.

He said he helped save the taxpayers about $900,000 in tax levies over a 10-year period when he recommended borrowing $1 million for 2011 street improvements rather than accepting the finance department’s recommendation to spend $1,795,000 for the improvements. He said he knew there were surplus funds that were available for the work.

“Again, if I’m re-elected I will continue to be the watchdog of the city’s tax dollars,” he said. “I take this job very seriously.”

Olson, 85, said he’s looking forward to working with a new city administrator and raised the possibility of reducing staff when that person is hired.

“I do research my material and do a lot of study before I vote,” he said. “I feel that it’s an honor and privilege to be able to represent the citizens of Brainerd.”

Olson was the top vote-getter in the 2008 city elections.

Magnuson, 65, said he and his wife have raised their family in Brainerd and lived here for about 20 years. He said he would like to give back, help figure out a way for Brainerd to grow and help individuals who would like to start or expand businesses.

“We need good-paying jobs here,” he said.

Magnuson, who worked at the former state hospital as a maintenance engineer, said property taxes are not the best way to keep funding government and he would work with legislators to try to maintain or increase Local Government Aid.

“We can’t cut our way entirely out of a financial bind,” he said. “You can only cut so far. If there are ways to provide the services more effectively those should be looked into.”

City employees, he said, often are a source of ideas on how to increase efficiency. One goal he identified was for Brainerd to have more job opportunities.

“The quality of life is here but we’ve taken a hit over the years with our biggest employers,” he said. “Part of the thing is you have to be able to partner with them .. work with those people and help them get their businesses up and going.”

Magnuson and his wife owned and operated a resort in Ottertail County in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He said he has been active in his faith community and has taught Sunday school. He said he thought his working background would bring a different perspective to the council. Magnuson previously served as president of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 1574.

“Maybe there’s a couple of thoughts in this old brain that might be helpful in these challenging times,” he said.

Filing earlier for the Ward 1 seat were Sue Hilgart and Amanda Monnier. Jeff Czeczok filed earlier for Ward 3. Filings for Brainerd city offices close Aug. 14.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860