MARSHALL — Infrastructure needs, the county budget and widespread labor shortages were all discussed at Thursday’s candidate panel for the Leon County Board. Commissioner candidates in Districts 1 and 2 introduced themselves and took questions from the community.
There are three Leon County commissioner seats up for election on Nov. 8, but only two of the races are contested. Commissioner Charlie Sano is running for re-election in Commissioner District 1 against challenger Thomas Andres. Candidates Todd Draper and David Sturrock are running in Commissioner District 2. Commissioner Paul Grappman is running unopposed in Commissioner District 3.
Candidates in both contested races answered questions on a variety of topics, including the labor shortage facing area businesses.
Sanov agrees that southwest Minnesota needs workers.
“Right now in our nine-county region, we have an unemployment rate of less than 2%.” Sanov said. He said he is committed to the community and encourages professionals to return to Leon County. Area counties are also looking for ways to bring people to the region, he said. “We’re willing to work with anything we can work with. We tried to find plans and did things we could to try to move those things forward.
Sturrock said the labor shortage is a complex problem that is being experienced across the state.
“You can’t keep (workers) or you can’t attract new ones, because housing — both availability and cost — day care and, to some extent, transportation. The county has a role in each of them, but it is certainly not the primary one. He \ he said. Partnering with other groups and using available funds can help address the underlying issues, he said.
“ARPA funds from the Congress-approved COVID relief package are still unallocated in the county. Perhaps there is an opportunity to tap into those funds,” Sturrock said. He said the county could also access state grants for more broadband Internet development.
Andreas acknowledged that child care availability is a key issue in attracting workers to Leon County. Expanding broadband access in the region will bring in more people, he said.
“People are moving back out of the cities and now they want to come back into the rural community. So, as a board and as a community, we have to do everything we can to make a situation where they can survive and thrive. Andries said.
Strong communities and good schools make Leon County attractive to people moving out of cities, Draper said.
“There’s a shortage there and with inflation, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But as long as we have a good community for them to come to, I think that will help us,” Draper said.
The commissioner candidates also spoke about their priorities and why they are running for the county board.
Sanov said he is running for re-election to gain some experience in county leadership during a time of staff and board turnover.
“This past year, we lost our auditor and the person who worked under him, we lost our HR person and we lost two other positions in our county. (Commissioner Steve) Ritter is leaving, the county attorney is also leaving. Sanov said. “With the experience I have, I want to stay there, and they want me to stay there and continue to work to be consistent.”
Andries said he felt the county needed it “think” For ways to keep property taxes under control, including more part-time employees or working with townships to clear snow on roads.
“Inflation is on everybody’s mind right now about the expansion of the limit” Andries said. “When elected to the commission, I vow to keep very strict control over property taxes. Commission should have a line on taxes.
Draper said he considered running for county commissioner when he heard Steve Ritter was not running for re-election.
“Maybe it’s a good time for me to give back to society,” I said to myself. Draper said.
“One of my goals, if elected, is to spend time with every department head and talk about what’s going on in their departments and in the county and find out what’s going on. To talk to the existing commissioners — they’re very knowledgeable.
Sturrock said some of his priorities are planning for the county’s future and working to make county government more accessible to the public.
“It’s a very secretive matter for the county government,” Sturrock said. “The scariest part of it is just the structure of the counties and what they do, but there are things we can do to fix that or help along with it.”
Sturrock suggested live streaming county board sessions or putting more detailed information on the county budget process in an easy-to-find location on the county website.