For the first time in more than 35 years, citizens of Hennepin County’s District 5 will elect a new county commissioner. After serving 10 terms in office, Randy Johnson’s retirement at the end of this term creates an open seat on the seven-member Hennepin County Board. His district includes Bloomington, Richfield and southern Eden Prairie.
The veteran commissioner, who served as board chair twice, helped manage an array of social services, a network of libraries, Hennepin County Medical Center, and the sheriff’s and public works departments. Hennepin County provides those services with 8,000 employees and a budget of nearly $2 billion.
Overseeing a government of this magnitude requires considerable energy, strong management and budgeting skills, and knowledge of government operations. Six candidates are vying to fit that bill in Tuesday’s primary. District 5 voters should send Debbie Goettel and Maureen Scallen Failor to the general election in November. In this field of candidates, their experience and understanding of county and regional issues stand out.
Goettel, 58, is a civil engineer who has worked in the environmental and sustainability fields and currently consults and owns a small business. The longtime Richfield resident was elected mayor in 2005 and is serving her third four-year term. Before being elected, she was an active volunteer in her community. She still serves on numerous state and regional boards that work on housing, labor, public health and transportation issues.
Goettel has earned a reputation as a good listener and problem solver who works well with other units of government to benefit her city and the region. She calls herself a collaborative consensus builder who believes that compromise is a strength, not a weakness. If elected, she wants to ensure responsible budgeting, promote economic development, establish transit options and support environmental sustainability.
As president of the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, Scallen Failor, 56, understands the private sector and wants to bring a common-sense business approach to the county workforce and economic development. She has been a top executive in a family business and also has worked with community-based nonprofits.
Among her priorities are responsible oversight and fiscal responsibility. The Bloomington resident would also work on property tax stability, public safety, improving transportation infrastructure and protecting the vulnerable.
Although County Board positions are nonpartisan, Goettel has DFL endorsement and Scallen Failor has GOP support.
Also running in the primary are Chris Howard, Andrew K. Moller, Lee Prinkkila and William Reichert.
Howard, 57, is a commercial real estate broker who ran unsuccessfully against Johnson once before. The Bloomington resident wants to see term limits for commissioners, property tax deductions for seniors, additional buses instead of trains and more deputies on the streets.
A retired vice president and financial officer with an MBA, Moller, 58, of Eden Prairie, hopes to bring a “fresh perspective’’ to county government. He’s promoting human services programs that encourage self-reliance, reduced property taxes and term limits. Moller lives in Eden Prairie and has run unsuccessfully for City Council and for Hennepin County Soil and Water District supervisor.
Prinkkila, 46, a financial officer for several companies, is also from Eden Prairie. He ran unsuccessfully for the St. Louis County Board but was appointed to serve on that county’s Board of Adjustment. He says he would work to improve employee satisfaction in Hennepin County.
Reichert, 59, is president of his own sports sales company and a Bloomington resident. He co-founded the Hands Off Our Cans group to oppose organized trash collection in Bloomington. His platform issues include better leveraging the county’s purchasing power and creating a business-friendly county.