Cindy Hansen and Jeff Reinert, candidates in Tuesday's special election to fill a vacant Anoka County Board seat, are both former north metro mayors who share many of the same positions on issues facing the county. Both tout their municipal leadership and believe their experience will transfer seamlessly to county government.
They differ on at least one matter, however: Reinert claims Hansen is a "carpetbagger." She denies it.
Reinert, former Lino Lakes mayor, and Hansen, former mayor of Spring Lake Park, were the top vote-getters in a special primary in November for the vacant Sixth District seat. The position opened last May after longtime Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah resigned when the board named her Anoka County administrator.
The shuffle caused by Sivarajah's resignation echoed in Spring Lake Park and Lino Lakes when Hansen, 62, and Reinert, 59, both left their positions to run for the County Board. Hansen resigned last summer, while Reinert finished his term in December.
In the November primary, Reinert captured 43% of the vote and Hansen came in with 25%. The winner next week will serve on the County Board the rest of the year and have to run again in November for a full four-year term.
Reinert said Hansen is not a full-time resident of Anoka County, which was at least the case during her nine years as mayor of Spring Lake Park. Property records show she has lived in Ramsey County.
But Hansen said that's because she lived in the part of Spring Lake Park, which is divided between the two counties, that sits in Ramsey County. She had to live in the city more than half the time to serve as mayor; the rest of the time, she said, she has lived since 2013 in a home with her husband, Doug, in Lino Lakes, squarely within Anoka County.
"I'm not a carpetbagger like [Reinert] is claiming," Hansen said.
Anoka County is the state's fourth-most populous county and has an annual budget of $300 million. The Sixth District forms the county's eastern side and encompasses Lino Lakes, Lexington, Columbus, Circle Pines, Centerville, three precincts in Blaine and Linwood Township.
Reinert is a lifelong resident of Lino Lakes, where he served as mayor for 10 years; before that, he was a City Council member for 10 years. Reinert's father, Vernon, also served on the council and as Lino Lakes mayor.
Both candidates balance their public positions with day jobs. Hansen has worked the past 20 years in nutrition services at Mounds View Public Schools. Reinert is president and co-founder of MNPHARM, a molecular farming manufacturer based in White Bear Lake.
Both said they disagreed with the County Board's recent decision not to create a public-comment period during board meetings, a deviation from standard practice for most county boards in the metro area. The proposal was to allow up to 10 minutes for public comment with two minutes allocated per speaker.
On refugee resettlement, an issue that has drawn recent attention in counties across the nation, both candidates said they don't have enough information to weigh in.