Your tax dollar is safe with me.

That's the chorus of the three men hoping to survive next week's primary election for a seat on the Scott County board.

The seat is open because the man now chairing the board, Bob Vogel, who represents the southeastern portion of the county, chose not to seek another term.

If fiscal conservatism is at the core of each candidate's pitch, however, each one's website carves out a slightly different brand image:

• Chris Olson, a veteran Prior Lake police investigator, offers a public safety emphasis, describing the growing county as underpoliced. Among the various jurisdictions involved, standard police-to-population ratios suggest there should be roughly 30 more officers than there are, he says.

• Tom Wolf, a onetime financial adviser, is the most emphatic hardliner when it comes to taxes and spending, contending that "taxes are much too high and county spending is out of control."

• Tony Albright, a retirement plan adviser, offers the strongest social conservative tinge, with more emphasis than the others on religion and family values.

But no one is confessing weakness where others are strong.

Albright says he "takes umbrage" at any idea that he's merely a numbers guy whereas Olson attracts those concerned about safety. "Just because you have a law enforcement background does not, per se, give you a leg up when it comes to a desire for support of law enforcement and prosecution," he said.

And Wolf says he's a "big 'family values' person. I sold my business to stay home with the kids. I'm with them at a camp as we speak. But in a county race, I don't see that as a prime topic."

All three would seem to bring to the board the same basic approach that Vogel brought: a banker who viewed county spending with a flinty eye. All three are wary, for instance, of the county's investments in parks.

"We all want parks, as I do," Wolf said, "but we have a couple of parks sitting without buildings or staff. Sitting there! We paid for them. It's like three Cadillacs in a garage, with no keys and no gas."

(County officials have said they want to lock down certain key parcels, especially on the few recreational lakes, before they are fully developed and lost to public access. Some have lobbied hard for interim use, but progress on that has been slow.)

In an increasingly challenging budget era, Olson emphasizes savings through cooperation.

"Little things, like gas: Is it feasible to buy gas in bulk as a county? In 20 years, no one cares what a snowplow says on the side of it. Is there a way we can, as a county, plow city roads and save money collectively? And it doesn't stop there."

Albright likes the talk he's heard from the courthouse of refusing to carry out some state mandates if the money isn't provided. "Our constituents don't have an open-ended checkbook, and to the extent we lose sight of that, I think it's a breach of our responsibilities."

And Wolf is still more outspoken: "They've been using taxpayers like a cash machine and that machine is closed now. This is going to be a tough four years: There is not a lot of money."

So far, at least, there is little visible tension among the three.

Said Wolf: "We're all conservatives, all good people, all running to try and make things better."

David Peterson • 952-882-9023