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Liedl seeks to combine recorder's office, land services

Mark Liedl, candidate for Crow Wing County recorder, believes in striving for consistency and efficiency, a customer service focus and combining departments.

Mark Liedl puts out a sign while campaigning for Crow Wing County Recorder in Baxter. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)
Mark Liedl puts out a sign while campaigning for Crow Wing County Recorder in Baxter. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)

Mark Liedl, candidate for Crow Wing County recorder, believes in striving for consistency and efficiency, a customer service focus and combining departments.

Restaurant owner Liedl said the same principles apply whether it's a burger or a government service - provide a quality product or service, provide it consistently and do it as efficiently as possible. In government, Liedl said it's even more imperative because it's someone else's money. "It's giving taxpayers the best value for their dollar," Liedl said. "If I had to say what's most important to me in what I'm doing right now - that's it."

Liedl and his opponent, Doug Hansen, have clear and different views for the future of the recorder's office. Liedl and Hansen advanced in a tightly contested recorder's office primary. Hansen received 1,463 votes. Liedl received 1,454. The third challenger, Brian Wallin, received 1,271 votes.

Goals for the office

Liedl is proposing to combine the recorder's duties with the land services director's duties. If elected recorder, Liedl is proposing to retain his land services director post. He said other counties have given recorders land related duties.

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Liedl said he'd eliminate the recorder's salary to save taxpayer dollars. The county recorder salary is $77,971. Leidl's salary as land services director is $110,571. His opponent, Doug Hansen, deputy recorder, makes $61,944.

Liedl said he believes the recorder's office has too many management positions with two supervisors and a deputy recorder for the small nine-person staff. To get a real feel for changes, Liedl said he'd have to go in and meet one-on-one with staff to get ideas. He said he'll continue to look for ways to foster innovation and maintain a current focus on technology.

Liedl said his background as an attorney and 28 years of management experience in the public and private sector will be a benefit for the recorder's office. Liedl received his bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota and his law degree from Georgetown University. He served in leadership roles for the state of Wisconsin with the state Department of Workforce Development and the Department of Agriculture, and was a senior member of former Gov. Tommy Thompson's office staff.

Throughout his time in the county, Liedl said his focus has been on reducing spending and integrating services.

"We can reduce spending and improve services," he said. "It's what voters expect and what taxpayers deserve." Liedl said that's why he is running and he thinks he's best suited for the position.

Asked what he would do if the county board didn't agree to move the land services role into the recorder's office, Liedl said he doesn't anticipate the commissioners saying no.

"To me, it's common sense," he said. And if commissioners wouldn't agree, Liedl said he'd lobby the public.

Liedl isn't advocating a change to appointing the recorder's position as opposed to electing one.

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Leadership style

Liedl likened his role to a head coach with assistant or speciality coaches. Liedl said his philosophy is to provide overall leadership and direction on keeping spending down and hire good people and let them use their talents. None of it happens, he said, without a team that is dedicated to it.

"I have been someone who has made a lot of changes," Liedl said. "I've reduced the land services budget - overall expenditures - by $3.8 million so that's a 45 percent reduction in the budget when I got here to what it is now. We've reduced levy spending by 37 percent."

Liedl said he welcomes feedback from staff and differing points of view. Once he makes a decision on a course, he said he expects everyone to be on the same page. Liedl said he likes helping find talented people and mentoring them.

"My focus is on delivering the best possible service for the lowest possible cost to the taxpayers so that's my leadership focus," he said. "To go in and make a lot of changes like that, not everyone agrees with you there is no question. Some of those changes were harder for some people than others. I think we have gotten to a point now we are on the right track. ... There were rough spots no question."

Liedl said he believes in innovation and objective results. Not everything works. After a year of having assessors follow-up on permits in addition to their other work (in an exchange of duties across department lines) the effort was discontinued as not being as efficient.

"People want us to deliver a better service and they know we can," Liedl said, adding people also know there is money being wasted.

Liedl pointed to successful efforts as land services director to give people more of a voice through public comment. He said planning and zoning now helps property owners do the right thing when the attitude before was based on a "gotcha" mentality for violations.

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As a consultant, Liedl brought the county board an action plan for changes in the county's land use policies. Following that six years ago, Liedl came on board as land services director to manage planning and zoning and oversee the surveyor's office, the land and parks department, solid waste management and Geographic Information Systems. Later the assessor's office was included. Liedl also served as interim community services director.

Five department head positions were eliminated as Liedl took the helm and some supervisors put into place.

"It's gut-wrenching, but that's my job," Liedl said adding that eliminating positions was done to give taxpayers the best value. "I don't think we needed five different department heads."

Liedl said when he started at land services one of the biggest complaints was people were treated inconsistently. Liedl said he stressed treating people with respect and professionalism.

"When I first got in as land services director I mean that was just a foreign concept, now I mean we've changed the whole culture by focusing on that and focusing on consistent policy and practices that are well communicated. ... We turned things around dramatically I think."

He previously served as special counsel/spokesman for the U.S. attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice and director of special projects for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.

In 2000, with the eldest of his five sons about to start high school, Liedl came back to the lakes areas where he had family ties in Ideal Township.

He took a job as a Crow Wing County assistant county attorney. A few years later, a desire to be self-employed led to starting a Culver's restaurant in Baxter. Liedl now co-owns Culver's with his son David, who handles operations.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz .

Related Topics: CROW WING COUNTY
Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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