Six candidates, all of whom live in Edina, filed to run for the open District 6 seat on the Hennepin County Board and a special primary April 30 will narrow the field down to just two.

Voters will pick the winning candidate during a May 14 special election. The winner will finish the term of Chris LaTondresse, who left the board in September. The term is up at the end of the year, so the seat will be on the ballot again in November.

The Hennepin County Board has seven commissioners who oversee a nearly $2.7 billion budget. The county has 1.3 million residents and is the second-largest government in Minnesota, after the state, with about 10,000 employees.

Commissioners approve budgets for the County Attorney and County Sheriff as well as HCMC and more than a dozen other health clinics. The board also oversees human services programs, property tax collections, solid waste disposal and 41 library branches.

The District 6 seat represents 66 precincts, including parts of Edina, Greenwood, Hopkins, Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Shorewood and Wayzata.

The Star Tribune asked the candidates why they decided to run and, if elected, what they would do differently in the role. Their answers are below:

Heather Edelson

Occupation: Minnesota State Representative, District 50A

Why are you running? The Hennepin County Board complements my experiences as a mental health therapist and serving in the Minnesota House of Representatives, where I have been vice chair of Ways and Means, Health and Human Services and Public Safety committees. Equally important is my lived experience with county services as a child growing up in poverty, which helped me become the first person in my family to graduate college.

How are you qualified? In the Legislature, I have focused on mental health, disability and literacy policy while also creating internship programs that have brought over 600 students to the Capitol. Being a lawmaker gives me a deep understanding of how state and county governments can work together. I have also served on several boards and commissions including the Crime Prevention Board and the Human Rights Commission.

What do you think the County Board should do differently? This seat has been open for eight months, so it is important to elect someone who can be impactful on the first day. At the Legislature I have been a pragmatic voice – leading the Civility Caucus that brings Democrats and Republicans together to tackle policy in a bipartisan way. I will use this experience on the Hennepin County Board to ensure all views are heard while delivering progress.

Patrick Gage

Occupation: Nonprofit leader and political organizer

Why are you running? Hennepin County District 6 is my home. From Mound to Edina, almost every city in our community meant something to me growing up, and I want to be a leader in shaping our future. As a young candidate, I'll bring a unique sense of urgency and fresh ideas to the county board, from climate change to public safety. I'm running because I believe we can build a safer, healthier District 6 together.

How are you qualified? I've spent nearly a decade working for and supporting nonprofits in leadership roles, from fundraising and governance to budgets and planning. I also have years of organizing experience, where I learned how to show up and listen, which is crucial for this job. I've personally knocked on over 12,000 doors so I can bring our community's priorities to the County Board.

What do you think the County Board should do differently? We're facing a climate and health care crisis. Frontline workers at HCMC are struggling. I don't support returning control to the county, but organized labor — nurses, medical assistants, techs, and other staff — should have direct representation on the HHS board. It's also imperative that the county shut down the [Hennepin Energy Recovery Center] as soon as possible, potentially within the next two to three years.

Janet Kitui

Occupation: Director of procurement at Normandale Community College

Why are you running? I'm running to serve as the next Hennepin County Commissioner. I am originally from Kenya, mine is an immigrant story. I moved to the United States 35 years ago. I have raised my children in this community. I am ready to give back to the community that has poured so much into me. I am the black female Senator Paul Wellstone; I am running because politics is about the improvement of people's lives.

How are you qualified? I have an MBA from Hamline University, I have served as president of Parent Council at Southview Middle School, I have served on the Edina Housing Task Force. I have served on the Transportation Commission. I am director of procurement at Normandale Community College. Based on my background and experience I am ready to make positive change on the Hennepin County Commission on day one.

What do you think the County Board should do differently? Build emergency shelters in the 16 cities in District 6, [where there's] not a single emergency shelter for someone fleeing domestic violence. People experiencing homelessness work very hard to navigate the systems that are a patchwork of safety nets duct taped together. Instead of a top-down solution the county should intentionally listen and act based on what people with lived experience are telling.

Daniel Moret

Occupation: Program manager at Community Reinvestment Fund

Why are you running? I'm running for Hennepin County District 6 to champion innovation, equitable economic opportunity and climate investment, ensuring safety and empowering our youth. My campaign focuses on harnessing technology to enhance public services, creating jobs, promoting climate focused investment, ensuring community safety and investing in programs that develop young people's skills and opportunities.

How are you qualified? I bring extensive experience in community and economic development, with a focus on expanding youth opportunities. I'm an effective communicator and I listen actively to all sides, ensuring community impact guides every action. I'm dedicated to reversing more than 40 years of disinvestment in our public sector, aiming to reinvest in our county and enhance quality of life for all residents.

What do you think the County Board should do differently? The commission should enhance transparency and accountability, ensuring that every decision is open and understandable to the public. It must embrace innovation, using technology to improve services and efficiency. Last, it needs to focus on equity, ensuring all community members can access public services, particularly in economic development, health care, transit and climate infrastructure.

Marisa Simonetti

Occupation: Businesswoman and mother

Why are you running? I saw increasing issues of crime, frivolous government spending and lack of accountability that did not sit well. Criminals are running rampant and being rewarded for malignant behavior. This is unsustainable and destructive to our children's futures. I am the type of person who will either stop complaining or do something about it. Here we are, so you know which option I picked.

How are you qualified? My experience is in business and I am adept at doing more with less. I'm able to take existing structures and optimize them, partnering with trustworthy people of excellence to get the job done. It comes down to teamwork, leadership and shared vision and values.

What do you think the County Board should do differently? County commissioners needs to do more with less, being efficient with taxpayer resources. It's time to reevaluate failing pet projects and have the wisdom to know when to either repurpose or cut our losses, instead of taking out GO bonds that will financially burden our children in the future. We need courage and leadership that enforces laws to protect public safety.

Jen Westmoreland

Occupation: Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Faculty, Hopkins School Board Member

Why are you running? I'm a lifelong resident of District 6 and I have been elected twice by our community to serve on the Hopkins School Board. I've lived in Hopkins, Minnetonka, Mound and Edina, and understand the diverse and unique needs of District 6 residents. As an organizer and elected official, I have taken a relational and data-driven approach to leadership in our community for the past two decades.

How are you qualified? I hold a doctorate in educational leadership specializing in systems change with community voices at the center of this process. As a local elected official on the Hopkins School Board for the past seven years, I have extensive experience working with my elected colleagues to make policy and budget decisions that are aligned with community values.

What do you think the County Board should do differently? I would advocate for a holistic community engagement strategy with collaboration between commissioners, Hennepin County staff, local elected and appointed leaders, and community partners. This will ensure that we are addressing actual community needs, aligning fiscal resources appropriately, capturing state and federal dollars, and avoiding duplicative efforts and spending.