Gaalswyk announces candidacy for reelection to Cass County Board

Gaalswyk has served as First District county commissioner for 12 years.

Neal Gaalswyk portrait
Neal Gaalswyk

BRAINERD — Neal Gaalswyk, current commissioner representing First District on the Cass County Board, Monday announced he was seeking reelection to the post.

Gaalswyk has served as First District county commissioner for 12 years.

“Serving the residents of this county has been an honor,” Gaalswyk said in a news release. “It is a privilege I do not take lightly. When I was first elected, I promised the people of my district that I would be honest, forward thinking, conservative with their money, and efficient in bringing the best the county could offer in terms of service, safety, stewardship and strong leadership. I believe I have done that, and my promise to the voters is the same now as it was then.”

A lifetime resident of southern Cass County, Gaalswyk grew up on the family farm west of Pillager, operating the farm with his father and brother through the late 1980s. Gaalswyk then began a 27-year career in law enforcement, retiring as a captain from the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office in 2010, the year he was elected a Cass County commissioner. Gaalswyk lives in East Gull Lake with Kathy, his wife of 45 years. Neal and Kathy Gaalswyk have three married adult children and seven grandchildren.

Gaalswyk has an Associate of Arts Degree in Law Enforcement from Central Lakes College and a Bachelor's Degree in Organizational Management from Concordia College of St. Paul. In addition to serving on multiple county board committees such as budget, personnel, and solid waste, Gaalswyk served on the Mississippi Headwaters Board, the KItchigami Regional Library Board, and was recently chosen by his fellow commissioners throughout the state to serve on the Association of Minnesota Counties Executive Board.


Gaalswyk serves on the board of directors of PORT Group Homes, the Pillager Education Foundation, and Youth Investment Foundation. Gaalswyk and his wife are involved with Josiah Venture, a missions organization serving in Eastern and Central Europe, and they are members of Lakewood Evangelical Free Church of Baxter.

Gaalswyk said one area of service that brings him considerable personal satisfaction is the strengthening of the relationship between Cass County and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. “We serve the same people,” said Gaalswyk, “so it only makes sense that we treat each other with respect and get along like good neighbors should. This attitude of cooperation between the Tribal Council and the County Board has led to mutual benefit and improved outcomes for all the people of our county and I am committed to an ongoing positive relationship with our sovereign neighbor and partner, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. This groundbreaking work was cited across the state and even across the United States as a model of how decades of mistrust and suspicion can be overcome when Tribes and Counties formally commit to treating each other with respect and to earning each other’s trust.”

Gaalswyk described himself as a fiscal conservative.

“People here work hard for their money,” he said. “My goal is to let them keep as much of their money as possible, to only tax their property at a rate that provides the services they expect from the county, and to provide those services in an efficient, equitable and effective manner.

Running a county is a complex business, Gaalswyk said, and what the county board does touches every county resident’s life on a daily basis — from public safety, to roads, land use and record keeping, environmental stewardship, veteran services, child protection and public health, forest management and picking up the trash. “Minnesota counties do it all,” he said.

“I am grateful to live here, thankful for the opportunity to serve, and committed to keeping Cass County a place that people like to call home or love to visit. I would appreciate your vote of confidence this fall,” said Gaalswyk.

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