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Voter's Guide: Wadena County

Wadena County Commissioner, District 5 Jon Kangas Age: 59. Occupation: Self-employed carpenter from 1997-2016. Public office experience: Menahga School Board, six years. Blueberry Township clerk, five years. I was also appointed to the Wadena Cou...

Heather Olson
Heather Olson

Wadena County Commissioner, District 5

Jon Kangas

Age: 59.

Occupation: Self-employed carpenter from 1997-2016.

Public office experience: Menahga School Board, six years. Blueberry Township clerk, five years. I was also appointed to the Wadena County Planning Commission and Board of Adjustment for six years.

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What do you want to accomplish if elected? The concern I hear most frequently from friends and community members is high property taxes, followed by access to public transportation. These areas would be my primary goals to improve upon.

Specifically, how will you accomplish your goals? First and foremost is to gather as many of the facts as necessary regarding the current situations. Listening to community members' concerns and ideas plays an important role in setting goals. Finally, work with other officials on ways we can make improvements while formulating and implementing a plan acceptable to the public. Wadena County's high taxes compared to surrounding counties puts a damper on residential and commercial growth and property values which in turn causes further tax increases in a vicious cycle.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition? Why are you the best candidate for the job? I have worked in both the government sector (15-plus years) and the private sector (25-plus years) which gives me two different perspectives on regulations, tax issues and the resulting consequences. My experience from serving on school and township boards gives me a working knowledge of grass roots government operations and zoning along with contract negotiations and governmental budgeting. I have a known history of listening to community members concerns and being willing to take a vocal stand for what I believe is right. I believe I will be a fair and honest representative for Wadena County District 5 if elected.

Curtis Ronneberg

Age: 72.

Occupation: Curt had the opportunity to teach over 5,500 students during his 39 years of teaching as a mathematics teacher in Wadena. Curt is now retired; however, still substitute teaches and works at R and J in Verndale.

Public office experience: Have not held any public office; however Curt has negotiated contracts for a collective bargaining unit.

What do you want to accomplish if elected? Issues that are important to Curt are: controlling the size and cost of government, improving and maintaining infrastructure, protecting our environment (air, land, and water).

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Specifically, how will you accomplish your goals? Did not respond.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition? Why are you the best candidate for the job? Curt considers himself a good listener, honest, a person of integrity, logical and fiscally responsible. Curt appreciates the chance to serve the residents as a commissioner in District 5 of Wadena County.

Wadena County Auditor/Treasurer

Heather Olson

Age: 35.

Occupation: Accountant.

Public office experience: None.

What do you want to accomplish if elected? I would like to see the financial side of the county ran better. I am currently the Highway Accountant for Wadena County and know the ins and outs of how it is currently ran. I think there could be more transparency and teamwork as an organization.

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Specifically, how will you accomplish your goals? I would like to see better budgeting and preparing of monthly financial documents for the board of commissioners. To make decisions as a group about taxpayer monies, they need to be given information that is helpful and useful. The teamwork in the county needs to be improved and I am the person to help with that. Communication is key when working with this size of organization. I would like to work on new processes and look to see where the old ones could be improved.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition? Why are you the best candidate for the job? I am the best candidate for the job because of my experience and knowledge of the county system. I work well with the auditor's office staff, board of commissioners, and the county staff. We all know changes need to be made and are willing to work together to get them accomplished. I think my experience as the highway accountant gives me the background to know where improvements need to be made and where things are working well. Filling in for the current auditor in her absence last year also gave me experience to know what that position handles.

Brian Hagen

Age: 55.

Occupation: Self-employed.

Public office experience: Two terms as mayor, six years planning and zoning, six years civic and commerce.

What do you want to accomplish if elected? My main directive if elected is to assist the county's other decision-making leaders in making more educated financial decisions, help all departments in streamlining budgets using technology, conservatism and leading by example, all which will accomplish my biggest concern, controlling the extremely high level of tax burden on our citizens.

Specifically, how will you accomplish your goals? Wadena County has limited resources, making it crucial all departments work together. This is particularly important for the position of auditor/treasurer. This position works closely with the board of commissioners; this person will basically be the right-hand person of the board. We have part-time compensated commissioners, so it's natural for them to have limited amount time to spend on researching and understanding the decision at hand. As auditor/treasurer, I will use my vast amount of experience from numerous industries to lay out different options for them. This will greatly increase that we are making the best choices possible.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition? Why are you the best candidate for the job? I started my first job the summer after fourth grade and continued through college. This paid my way to graduating from University of Minnesota at Morris with a major in business economics and accounting minor. The following years my consulting firm which taught small- to medium-size businesses not only computerized accounting but developing better streamlining processes to increase their profitability. The list of clients include but not limited to; county offices, city offices, computer companies, livestock processors, retail stores and manufacturing companies. I have owned and operated a water treatment business, computer company, turkey farms, and a small engine store.

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