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Brekken will not seek a second term

Elected in 2018 to his first term on the county board, Brekken unseated incumbent Paul Thiede.

Bill Brekken
Bill Brekken
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BRAINERD — Crow Wing County Commissioner Bill Brekken will not seek reelection to his District 2 seat.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to be a Crow Wing County commissioner,” Brekken said, thanking voters for the opportunity to represent them at the county board. Brekken’s district includes the cities of Crosslake, Jenkins, Pequot Lakes, Breezy Point and Nisswa.

Brekken said, after a sleepless night before making the announcement, he felt it was the right decision and he wanted to allow time for others who may have an interest in serving and representing District 2. The filing period closes Tuesday, May 31.

Elected in 2018 to his first term on the county board, Brekken is currently the board vice chair and serves on 15 committees. Brekken narrowly won in the 2018 county board race, upsetting longtime incumbent Paul Thiede. Brekken won the seat by 85 votes.

Before running for public office, Brekken managed the Herberger's department store chain for 17 years at the Brainerd location and later served on the board of directors for Lakewood Bank, and later was its business development coordinator for seven years. Brekken, 70, joked he’s tried retirement — several times. He is also a real estate agent and has several other irons in the fire and commitments, which, he said, were part of the reason for serving a single term, although he also likes the idea of bringing in new people to the board.

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Brekken said he’s proud of the current board and the members’ accomplishments in reducing the levy, paying off the county’s debt to the point where it is debt free and rebuilding financial reserves.

“I think one of the first things that I'm feeling good about is that the county, I feel, is in good financial shape,” Brekken said.

With money in the bank, Brekken said, the county is on the path to a pay-as-you-go financial plan instead of the need to essentially borrow money to fund projects.

“So future expenses should be hopefully prepared for and paid for, which takes the burden off the levy,” he said.

In terms of other accomplishments, Brekken pointed to the county’s work with Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act money it received two years ago during the pandemic.

“We had $6 million that went back into the community and businesses and nonprofits,” he said. “So we've really spread that out.”

Other areas that stand out to him include protecting shoreland and water quality, developing a short-term vacation home rentals ordinance, improving interactions and working well with the Soil and Water Conservation District, making changes so lake improvement districts can take on the responsibility for themselves to protect water quality.

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HomeGoods would take the smaller of the two spaces in the renovated interior of the former big box store in Baxter.

Brekken said they’ve built a strong relationship with lake associations and are working well together and support each other.

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“So at the end with that financial stability that we have, and the way that we've built that reserves, I feel good about the job that the current county commissioners have done. And I'm proud to be part of that group. The reason that I have decided not to run is that I have a number of personal commitments that I'm committed to, and I want to be able to give all of them 100% of my effort — and I'm having to let go of a little bit,” Brekken said. “And maybe in some way I believe in term limits.”

Brekken said he encourages people to take a look at filing for the county board seat.

“I see more work getting done at the county commissioner level, the city level and township level, that doesn't happen on the state and federal level,” Brekken said. “And the residents benefit from that, and especially if we are financially responsible for what's going on.”

The work has been rewarding as a public service, Brekken said. The election process, he said, also shows the value of voting because the people elected are in control of what the county’s path will look like. Brekken also spoke of the dedication of county employees to the work they do every day.

“They're professional, hardworking and loyal,” he said.

Brekken said he’s learned a lot in the process of serving District 2 and sees the value of nonpartisan elections for township, city and county. Working at the local level, Brekken said the influence can almost be immediate compared to the state or federal level. Brekken said he has a lot of respect for those nonpartisan elected officials and their contribution to the community.

“I would encourage anybody else to look at that opportunity in wanting to file,” he said.

The filing period ends May 31. For more information on filing for office, go to bit.ly/3GoXwoG .

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Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz.

Related Topics: CROW WING COUNTY BOARDCROW WING COUNTYGOVERNMENT AND POLITICSELECTION 2022
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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