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Veterans, relative newcomers vie in Anoka County Board primary

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY
  • Star Tribune
  • July 21, 2012 - 9:53 PM

One candidate is a former Ramsey mayor, with three decades of political experience. Another served as Anoka County's director of veterans services, a political newcomer "committed to what is right, not to my personal agenda."

A third candidate is an Oak Grove City Council member who says that if elected to the Anoka County Board, he will serve no more than two terms. The final candidate is the incumbent, a commissioner for only 19 months and still a relative newcomer to county-level politics.

Regardless of political experience, all the candidates vying for Matt Look's District 1 seat should be familiar to constituents voting in the Aug. 14 primary that will narrow the field to two.

Tom Gamec was a longtime mayor of Ramsey. Allison Lister, a 21-year Air Force veteran, made news when she expressed displeasure with what she called the county's lack of leadership. Dan Denno is in his first term as an Oak Grove council member. And Look, a former Ramsey council member, was elected in 2010 to the County Board seat that opened when veteran Commissioner Dennis Berg retired.

Redistricting has prompted elections for six of the seven County Board seats this year. Only Jim Kordiak will not have to run for re-election this year.

Lister says she is running because "I am discouraged with what I see going on with the current County Board."

Lister, who grew up in the county and now lives in Oak Grove, lamented what she said is the political division within the board, how "a few of the commissioners will not listen to any opposing ideas that get in the way of their political agenda."

Although she considers herself a fiscal conservative, she said, "I consider myself a pendulum that doesn't swing to the extreme either way."

Look, who owns a sign company, says he is running for re-election "to continue to right-size government."

"The county needs strong leaders that will prepare and stabilize government, families, businesses and individuals for the unknown future," he said. "I have the experience and track record to continue to do that."

Look says Anoka County's future "is defined by the strength of our financial position." He is part of a board that has seen the county decrease its tax levy rate and budget for the first time in four decades.

Denno said he questions "building a Taj Mahal" for the county's Public Works Department and the construction of a Northstar train station in Ramsey, a project that Look championed.

"There's a difference in being a fiscal conservative on paper and looking at circumstances as they come along and saying, 'That doesn't make sense,'" Denno said. As for limiting himself to two terms if he gets elected, Denno said, "A county commissioner being in office for 30 years is crazy."

Gamec first served as Ramsey's mayor from 1979 to 1984. He was elected again in 1997 and served another decade.

"My ability to work with all types of people is certainly one of my strengths," he said.

Gamec says experience, not age, should be considered in this race.

"I felt I could be an asset, with all the knowledge and experience I've had," he said. "I'm familiar with the entire area, not just Ramsey, and have been working with the cities of Nowthen and St. Francis on a few issues.

"I want to keep working for the citizens, fight for their needs."

A primary also will be held for Anoka County's 4th District board seat. Incumbent Andy Westerberg is being challenged by Ham Lake Council Member Julie Braastad, former state Sen. Debbie Johnson and state Sen. Mike Jungbauer. A previous story on that primary can be seen at www.startribune.com/a1534.

Paul Levy • 612-673-4419

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