Especially during a presidential election year, county commissioner campaigns are among the lowest-profile races on the ballot.
Yet county government touches the lives of nearly all residents. From libraries and roads to social services and taxes to courts and law enforcement, Hennepin, the state's most heavily populated county, is a major economic driver. About a third of the state's jobs and personal income are located in the county. With 1.2 million people and a $1.6 billion budget, Hennepin is larger than several U.S. states and is home to some of the wealthiest and the poorest Minnesotans.
This year voters will send two new commissioners to the seven-member board -- incumbents Linda Koblick and Penny Steele are not running.
Currently mayor of Minnetonka, Callison is a Harvard-educated lawyer who previously served 15 years on the City Council. She is a former director of a suburban affordable-housing land trust and has been a leader on local and regional environmental and planning issues. She is an analytical thinker who advocates for the full range of county transit options.
To address a growing list of needs with limited resources, Callison proposes consulting with top business and civic leaders to examine all county functions. She believes savings can be found though better use of technology and more interagency cooperation. And she has a history of making tough budget decisions while maintaining high citizen satisfaction with city services.
Her opponent, John Cooney, currently owns a printing business and has held several political jobs, including serving as political director for U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad. He is a bright candidate whose priorities are improved roads, enhanced public safety, job creation and lower taxes, though he admits that, with increasing needs, tax cuts are unlikely.
Because of her broad experience and track record in public service, Callison is the stronger candidate.District 7: Jeff Johnson
Johnson is a business owner, lawyer and former state representative who has demonstrated that he can work effectively with colleagues across the aisle. During six years at the Legislature, where he rose to become assistant House majority leader, he sponsored bills to combat methamphetamine and limit the powers of eminent domain.
Energetic and focused, Johnson would ask tough questions and bring strong understanding of government functions. Though we disagree with him on some tax and transit issues, he would be a thoughtful conservative voice on the board.
His opponent is Joan Molenaar, a smart former Champlin City Council member with an impressive background in youth, family, community and volunteer work.
In District 5, incumbent and board chair Randy Johnson is running for a seventh term against challenger David J. Nyberg. However, the Editorial Board decided to interview only candidates running for open seats.