Crow Wing County Board: Koering, Houge take oath of office
The commissioners representing the northeastern and southern portions of Crow Wing County assumed office for another four years Tuesday. Doug Houge and Paul Koering, who both ran unopposed in the 2016 election, recited the oath of office at the b...
The commissioners representing the northeastern and southern portions of Crow Wing County assumed office for another four years Tuesday.
Doug Houge and Paul Koering, who both ran unopposed in the 2016 election, recited the oath of office at the beginning of Tuesday's board meeting.
Houge, 53, served on the county's planning commission for five years prior to becoming a commissioner. He was first elected to the county board in a special election following the death of John "Jinx" Ferrari while in office in 2007. Last November's election was the fourth in which his name was on the ballot for District 5. The district covers the northeastern portion of the county, which includes the cities of Crosby, Cuyuna, Deerwood, Emily, Fifty Lakes, Ironton, Manhattan Beach, Riverton and Trommald.
Houge grew up on the Cuyuna range after moving to the area in the second grade. He graduated from Crosby-Ironton High School and went on to study construction management at Alexandria Technical and Community College. He worked in the lumber industry for a number of years and since 2011, has owned the Crosby Bar on Main Street in Crosby. Houge also manages rental properties.
He raised three children in the area-Sara, Ashley and his late son Brandon, who died unexpectedly in December 2015 at age 27 due to complications from diabetes.
As a business owner, rental property manager and county commissioner, Houge said he doesn't have much free time. But the free time he does have in the summers is spent at a camper on the lake with his children and grandchild. Houge also spent much of last spring and summer planning a benefit in honor of his son, which raised nearly $40,000 to benefit diabetes education efforts at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center.
Koering, 52, was elected to the county board in 2012 to represent District 1, which covers the southern portion of Crow Wing County, from Fort Ripley east to Roosevelt Township and north to Oak Lawn Township. The extreme northeast portion of the city of Brainerd, where Koering now calls home, also falls within District 1.
Koering is a lifelong resident of Crow Wing County, spending most of his life in St. Mathias Township on a dairy farm. His first foray into public service was as a representative on the Minnesota Farm Bureau board of directors, which interested him in local politics. Before entering county government, he served eight years as a Republican state senator and did not expect to see himself back into politics after that. He agreed to seek election as a county commissioner after neighbors upset with the incumbent approached him to run.
When Koering is not seated in the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse, he runs two liquor stores-the Baxter Liquor Mart in Baxter and Northeast Liquor in Brainerd. Now that he no longer runs the medical examiner transport service for Crow Wing County, he said he has more time to take up new hobbies, including photography, which is a particular interest of his.
When announcing their re-election bids in May, both Houge and Koering cited the desire to see through the elimination of the majority of the county's debt-on pace for 2020-as reasons they wished to return to the board.
Houge said the $5 million Crow Wing County will no longer spend in debt payments in four years will present another opportunity for tax relief. In addition to a property tax levy reduction, Houge said he would like to see that money applied toward eliminating the half-cent local option sales tax the county board approved at the end of 2015. Revenue from that tax is used on the county's transportation system, which was inadequately funded to meet maintenance targets according to county statistics.
Koering also cited his desire to see the $5 million spent on the county's roads. He's also hoping redirecting the money once spent to pay off debt can help to eliminate the sales tax while improving the county's roads.
"There are a ton of roads in this county that are in bad, bad shape, and I would like to see us try to bring all of those roads up to a good ride quality index," Koering said.