We see that you have javascript disabled. Please enable javascript and refresh the page to continue reading local news. If you feel you have received this message in error, please contact the customer support team at 1-833-248-7801.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Franzen, Scheffler face off during testy candidate forum

Commissioner Rosemary Franzen, a four-term County Board member and retired school district employee, and Troy Scheffler, a Merrifield resident and frequent county government critic, are competing for a seat in the boardroom.

One candidate sits while another stands behind a table while answering a question during a candidate forum
Incumbent Rosemary Franzen, left, and challenger Troy Scheffler answer questions about their candidacies for Crow Wing County Board District 4 during a Sept. 13, 2022, candidate forum at the Crow Wing County Land Services Building.
Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch
We are part of The Trust Project.

BRAINERD — An incumbent and challenger looking to represent District 4 on the Crow Wing County Board for the next four years presented themselves to voters during a Sept. 13 candidate forum.

Commissioner Rosemary Franzen, a four-term County Board member and retired school district employee, and Troy Scheffler, a Merrifield resident and frequent county government critic, are competing for a seat in the boardroom. District 4 includes Lake Edward Township, the majority of the First Assessment District, the city of Baxter north of Highway 210 and one precinct in the city of Brainerd.

More Election 2022 coverage
Memo says to refer to abortion as a "protected constitutional right in Minnesota."
Vote this November like your safety, your freedoms, and your children are on the line.
Charles Black Lance will strive to listen, learn and make decisions that support the highest quality educational opportunities for my family and those throughout the district.
John Ward possesses all the qualities of a remarkable leader and has a long history as a public servant.
The League of Women Voters of the Brainerd Lakes Area will host the forum in Central Lakes College’s Dryden Theater.
The Republican and former Duluth police officer said the package of bills was only a political play by Democrats approaching the midterm elections.
All but one of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidates for statewide office have maintained a fundraising edge in the 2022 campaign.
Endorsement letters for the Nov. 8 general election will be accepted through Nov. 3 for print in the Nov. 6 edition of the Brainerd Dispatch.
Jon is an excellent listener, is a person who has broad knowledge of all levels of government, and is a person who worked effectively with us though we all had different issues in play.
John Ward’s lifetime of experiences, and actions, make him the perfect candidate for the ISD 181 School Board at this critical time.
His passion, endless energy, commitment to students and community make John Ward an excellent candidate for the Brainerd School Board.
I respect John Ward as a person with integrity and strong moral values. He is a proven leader and effective communicator.
If we continue to elect people simply on partisan voting we will never see anything get done.
I have known John Ward for many years and I feel he would be an excellent member of the Brainerd School Board.
Election administrators and judges are part of the community. We are your neighbors and co-workers, people you see at church on Sunday or in line at the grocery store. I believe I speak for all election officials when I say we are honest citizens who want to serve our community to the best of our ability.
Candidates for the four-year seats are: Charles Black Lance (incumbent), DJ Dondelinger, Randy “RJ” Heidmann, Elisa Korentayer, Derek Owen, Lowell Smith and Sarah Speer (incumbent).
Candidates for the two-year seat are: Anthony Bonsante, Tris Cluever, Jessica Forsberg, Trevor Mulholland, Mike Stanek, David Stimac, John Ward, Brent Yaunick and Michelle Brekken.
The last few years have taught our nation's students and educators alike that empathy, grace and grit can get us through the hardest of times; these are the same pillars that Mr. Ward echoed
Charles Black Lance is what we need to help our community prosper and grow.
John Ward's tenacity is not easily matched.
The statewide office doesn’t always grab headlines in an election year, and the work of the auditor is often not as political or high-profile as other offices says Julie Blaha, a DFLer who is running for her second term in the office.
Bob Wright has spent 25 years work experience with Soil and Water and Environmental Services.
Gov. Tim Walz said his 15-year-old son, who attends high school in Mankato, Minnesota, came home traumatized after police responded to a fake call reporting an active shooter at the school Wednesday.
While metro races will be front and center in the contest for the House, other Greater Minnesota regions could make a big difference in the Senate, where Democrats hold 31 seats. Historic Democratic strongholds in northeast Minnesota’s Iron Range appear to be leaning more toward Republicans, and population centers like Rochester have started to lean more Democratic as they grow and change demographically.
Absentee voting for the Nov. 8 general election starts Friday, Sept. 23, 2022.
Barrows, a one-term county commissioner and retired Minnesota Department of Human Services employee, and Erickson, a Brainerd City Council member and Region Five Development Commission transportation planner, are running to represent District 3 on the Crow Wing County Board.
The victor between the two will succeed Commissioner Bill Brekken, who chose not to run for reelection, to represent District 2.
Democrats have accused Republicans at the state level of enacting policies to make it harder for racial minorities who tend to support Democratic candidates to cast ballots.
Ten percent told the Mason Dixon Polling and Strategy firm that they hadn’t made up their minds and a tiny fraction said they would opt for a third-party candidate.
Candidates for three Crow Wing County Board seats presented themselves to voters Tuesday, Sept. 13, in a candidate forum sponsored by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce, Brainerd Lakes Area League of Women Voters and Brainerd Dispatch.

The forum — moderated by Matt Kilian, Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce president, and sponsored by the chamber, Brainerd Lakes Area League of Women Voters and the Brainerd Dispatch — drew about 75 attendees to the Crow Wing County Land Services Building along with a virtual audience.

Franzen described herself as a lifetime resident of the county, having lived with her husband in Baxter for 40 years. Before her 16-year stint on the County Board, she served a term on the Baxter City Council. Franzen also serves as a board member of Northern Pines Mental Health Center. She said after a more than 30-year career in the school district, she quit that job to run for county commissioner.

“I thought, ‘I don’t want to do two jobs poorly, I want to do one job well,’” Franzen said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Franzen said she’s running for reelection because she believes people need a watchdog for their money and she puts in the time necessary to do the job of commissioner well.

“I know how to ask the hard questions to make sure there’s no frivolous spending. I believe elected officials must be accountable to people, and I feel very strongly about this role,” Franzen said. “I guess I just — I have the experience, and I feel very strongly that we need to do that. We need to make sure that we spend everyone’s money wisely.”

Scheffler opted to use his opening statement to criticize Sheriff Scott Goddard’s performance in the sheriff candidate forum occurring just before commissioner candidates took their turn. He reiterated points made by Goddard’s challenger Eric Klang concerning turnover in the office and employee engagement.

A candidate answers a question while seated at a table
Incumbent Commissioner Rosemary Franzen participates in a Sept. 13, 2022, candidate forum at the Crow Wing County Land Services Building.
Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

“The amount of BS that I just heard from one of the candidates for sheriff is appalling. It’s absolutely appalling,” Scheffler said while standing at the table. “ … People aren’t electing me to not cut through the BS. I’m a populist candidate, talked to thousands of people on the road outside here, and there’s one thing that they’re sick of: the status quo and the good old boys club.”

Turning to his race for office, Scheffler said his top priority is to reduce the county’s dependence on grants and put an end to what he characterized as a shell game at play with the budget. He took aim at Franzen’s support of a 2021 motion to approve the hiring of a social worker and case aide focused on housing resources, the salaries for which are supported by a $341,715 grant from the state. Scheffler claimed the intent of the grant was to import social services-dependent people into Crow Wing County to the detriment of taxpayers.

“We went from 20% grant dependence in 2014, and now we’re up to 35%. That’s insanity. That’s crazy,” Scheffler said. “Where’s it all going? It’s starting to bleed off onto our property taxes. So if anyone would be honest or actually looked at the budget here, they’d be able to explain that to you.”

Scheffler appeared to derive those figures from various publications on the county’s finances. In the 2014 annual budget and capital improvement plan , a pie chart projecting the county’s revenues that year shows 13% came from federal grants and another 7% from state grants, totaling 20%. In the 2022 version of that document , a table breaking down the source of each of the county’s revenues lists a projected $35 million from intergovernmental sources of the $100 million in anticipated revenues, or 35%.

Nick Mielke, county finance director, confirmed Tuesday, Sept. 20, such a comparison is not apples to apples. Intergovernmental revenue encompasses state and federal allocations beyond grants alone, along with cost-sharing agreements with other local governments. Mielke reported operating grants and contributions actually accounted for 29% of total county revenue in 2014, while in the last complete budget year of 2021, that figure dropped to 27%.

ADVERTISEMENT

Budget and taxes

Asked about his approach to setting future tax rates and balancing the county’s budget amid rising property values, Scheffler again stood to answer while other candidates remained seated. He said valuation can be confusing for people, noting an increase in value doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in tax burden.

What county officials aren’t being truthful about, Scheffler said, is the county’s debt financing. Scheffler claimed the county used COVID-19 relief funds to pay down its debt, and the 15% of the property tax levy once allocated for that purpose should be part of the calculation for how much taxes are really rising.

“They’re trying to masquerade that your taxes are only increasing a modest 3%. … Your taxes are effectively going up 15 or 18%, and that’s where we’re at,” Scheffler said. “And this is the thing that I’m so sick and tired of is this obfuscation of what’s going on. People need to know what’s going on.”

Candidate stands as he answers a question during a forum
Troy Scheffler, a candidate for Crow Wing County Board District 4, participates in a Sept. 13, 2022, candidate forum at the Crow Wing County Land Services Building.
Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

Mielke said Tuesday no COVID-19 relief money was used toward debt, the vast majority of which was paid off in 2020 using levy dollars collected in 2019. For years, the County Board referenced 2020 as when it would be free of debt from its building projects.

After the eight-year run of flat and reduced levies ended in 2019, staff advised commissioners the county would achieve better financial stability if it continued to levy the money once used for debt and redirected those resources to shore up fund balances. The county used these savings accounts to pay for unexpected increases in various state-mandated programs within community services, while also putting savings toward ongoing expenses to achieve commissioners’ desires of maintaining a flat levy.

Franzen said while property values are part of the equation, what really affects taxes is how much the county spends in its budget. She said the preliminary levy increase of 2.89% board members are expected to consider later this month is pretty low, when considering increasing staff costs such as raises negotiated with unions.

“We need to control our spending and we need to get grants,” Franzen said. “We have a $100 million budget and $42 million of that is paid for by taxes. Fifty-eight percent of that was paid for by grants.”

Franzen’s characterization of the impact of grants was also inaccurate, as multiple other sources of revenue beyond grants account for the remainder of the county budget.

ADVERTISEMENT

Candidate differences

When it came to the most significant difference between himself and his opponent, Scheffler reiterated some of the criticisms of Franzen he’d peppered throughout the forum, including her absence in communicating with voters, the board’s handling of a sexual harassment investigation into former Chief Deputy Andy Galles, and the county’s lack of action toward the methadone clinic in Brainerd.

“Honesty. That’s it right there. As far as openness, that’s another thing — being able to stand up for what’s right and tell the truth about that, and push and push and push,” Scheffler said. “That’s certainly on the top of my list.”

Scheffler claimed Franzen is lying about the county’s history with the methadone clinic, which he said is responsible for killing people in the community and yet, commissioners have done nothing about it. While Franzen previously stated commissioners weren’t asked about the clinic locating in Brainerd, there was a letter of support in 2012, Scheffler said.

County Administrator Tim Houle confirmed the 2012 letter of support, but said it was sent without commissioners’ knowledge. That particular letter, in fact, set the course for a new internal policy requiring all letters of support come before the board if their names were to be attached, Houle said. A May 2014 Brainerd Dispatch story supports that narrative, stating, “Board members recalled a letter of support given in the past to a methadone clinic when the board didn’t know anything about it.”

In 2016, the board denied a letter of support upon a change in ownership at the clinic, citing several concerns with the site, its impact on property values and the increased burden on law enforcement.

After spending most of the forum faced away from her opponent, Franzen turned toward Scheffler when giving her response to this question. She pushed back on how Scheffler framed the methadone clinic issue and said an investigation into Galles began immediately before noting she couldn’t say more because of data privacy. This spring, those familiar with the Galles harassment claims maintained the sheriff’s office attempted to at first ignore the complaints without a meaningful investigation.

“There is a lot of difference between my opponent and I, and honesty is the thing. I just don’t subscribe to the truth according to Troy, where there is no honesty in my opinion,” Franzen said. “ … It just seems to me that everything that is told to you, you twist into something that isn’t even accurate. And I am really, really offended by the way that you conduct yourself.”

Scheffler asked if he could rebut Franzen’s response, but Kilian clarified no rebuttals were allowed in the forum.

CHELSEY PERKINS, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

Related Topics: CROW WING COUNTYCROW WING COUNTY BOARDGOVERNMENT AND POLITICSELECTION 2022
Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
What to read next
National 4-H Week is being celebrated locally and nationally this week, Oct. 2-8.
Calendar of events at The Center in Brainerd.
A listing of area meetings and events in the Brainerd lakes area.
Area listings of agendas