The nine candidates for the three Ramsey County Commissioner seats on the ballot in November 2012 include a state senator, a former sheriff, a former gubernatorial candidate, and only two incumbents.
Seats in Districts One, Two and Seven are on the ballot this November. A non-partisan primary on August 14 will cut the number of candidates in each district down to two before the November 6 elections. Candidates can receive party endorsements, but their affiliations will be left off ballots.
Four candidates are running in District One, which includes Arden Hills, Gem Lake, North Oaks, Shoreview, Vadnais Heights, White Bear Township and parts of Mounds View, Spring Lake Park and Blaine. Incumbent Tony Bennett faces competition from 16-year Shoreview City Councilmember Blake C. Huffman, Shoreview attorney Frank T. Mabley and former Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher.
Instead of seeking re-election, District Two Commissioner Jan Parker decided to retire in December after 16 years of service to New Brighton, Mounds View, St. Anthony, Roseville, Little Canada and Lauderdale. An experienced group of candidates is running for her vacated seat.
“One thing that happens when there’s an open seat like this is that you get some really good people who are interested in running,” Parker said. “It’s always harder to beat an incumbent.”
The candidates include DFL-endorsed Mary Jo McGuire, who is retiring from the state senate after redistricting left two DFLers in the same district; Sue Jeffers, former candidate for Republican gubernatorial nomination and radio show host on KTCN-AM 1130; and Mary Burg, an eight-year New Brighton City Council member.
“All three of them know their way around a campaign,” said Parker, “so I’m sure it will be interesting.”
District 7 incumbent Victoria Reinhardt faces 2008 opponent, Dennis Dunnigan, the owner of Dennis Dunnigan and Associates, Real Estate Appraisal. This district represents Maplewood, North St. Paul, White Bear Lake and Ward 6, Precinct 12 in the north of St. Paul proper.
Ramsey County is split into seven districts, each represented by one county commissioner.
According to the Association of Minnesota Counties,“County commissioners are elected officials who oversee county activities and work to ensure that citizen concerns are met, federal and state requirements are fulfilled, and county operations run smoothly.”
Commissioners plan a budget to provide services that the state delegates to county level government. Services include county roadway maintenance, human service programs such as food stamps and medical assistance and overseeing the number and payment of county employees.
“We have to decide how much money –and in doing that we have to weigh the need of those services and the public’s willingness and ability to pay,” retiring Commissioner Jan Parker said.
Parker, of District Two, explained that commissioners explore ways to reduce spending through preventative programs, eliminating redundancies and increasing efficiency in the system.
“We try to provide adequate services with limited dollars,” she said. “People are taxed to the max.”
The summer campaign trail is difficult, Parker explained, since county districts are larger than state senate districts.
“I have six different cities in my district,” she said. “That means six parades, six community festivals, door-knocking across that entire area, trying to raise money… it’s an exhausting year of campaigning, but it’s also very fun.”