For the first time in more than 15 years, there will be a new commissioner for Sibley County’s fourth district.
Four women and three men are seeking election in District 4. The field will be narrowed to two candidates in the Tuesday, August 10th primary election.
Incumbent Charlie Woehler is not seeking reelection. He has served the sprawling district since 1994. District 4 includes most of the northern area of the county including the Cities of Green Isle and New Auburn. Townships in District 4 include Green Isle, New Auburn, Transit, Bismarck, Moltke and Grafton.
The seven candidates are Mark Henry Alsleben, Ricky Buboltz, Joy Cohrs, Steve Gillaspie, Kathi Gruenhagen, Catherine Lorenz and Luayn Murphy. They recently responded to a questionnaire distributed by The Gaylord Hub. Below is a summary of their responses.
Creating more jobs and attracting more private businesses. That is what Mark Henry Alsleben of New Auburn believes are among the major tasks facing Sibley County.
Alsleben, an owner of a New Auburn business for the past nine years, is vying for a commissioner post “to keep Sibley County running smoothly.” He says he will be a guy making good decisions.
Alsleben, a Green Isle native, believes Sibley County needs to reduce taxes by controlling spending.
A life-long resident of Grafton Township, Ricky Buboltz is one of seven candidates in the running for the District 4 Sibley County Commissioner position.
Currently in his seventh year working full-time for the Sibley County Highway Department, Buboltz plans to serve the people of Sibley County with “responsible conservatism and spending of our tax dollars.”
“I want to be able to listen to the people of Sibley County with their needs and concerns of what we should be doing as a county government,” said Buboltz.
On Buboltz’s agenda is to bring more economic development to Sibley County. “There is a need for more jobs in our county,” he said.
Buboltz also plans to be an active listener for all issues and will act upon the concerns and issues for the good of the residents and businesses in Sibley County.
Buboltz has worked part time for the Renville County Highway Department and is a member of the Zion Lutheran Church in Buffalo Lake. Buboltz is also a cash crop farmer.
Buboltz lives with his significant other, Marilyn, and has four children.
Road maintenance and the budget are two issues facing Sibley County and District 4, according to commissioner candidate Joy Cohrs.
A resident of Sibley County for 37 years, Cohrs decided it was time to run for county commissioner. “I have been interested and thought about this for many years and decided now is the time.”
Cohrs believes all of the districts are faced with similar issues, mainly road maintenance. With the federal mandates for signage and lack of funding, the townships will have to provide the funds, Cohrs explained.
Familiar with the departments and general operations of the county, Cohrs stated she would have more to learn and would be dedicated to do her best to serve the people of her district and Sibley County.
“The major issue is the budget because it seems everything else comes back to whether there are monies to keep programs and departments operating,” said Cohrs.
Cohrs lives and farms near New Auburn and works at Franklin Printing in Glencoe. She has two children and seven grandchildren. She has been a member of the Sibley County Fairboard since 1990 and has been involved with Sibley County 4-H for over 20 years. Other activities of Cohrs include member of the Sibley County Historical Society and member of the First Lutheran Church in Glencoe.
Gillaspie said his reasons for running for Commissioner have not changed since the last time he ran in 2006.
Accountability continues to be a concern as Gillaspie says without it, “nothing will ever change.” He believes decisions made by commissioners with little or no information have to stop. Commissioners need to assume the leadership role of their position and demand accountability from everyone, Gillaspie explained. He feels an accountable organization leads to a healthier and happier environment, a hike in productivity, fewer mistakes, and cost savings.
Along with lack of accountability, Gillaspie believes other major issues facing the county include: lost revenues from the devaluation of property values; reductions in State aid; providing for the rising senior citizen population; and deteriorating roads. Gillaspie said budgeting will be tested at great lengths in upcoming years. There needs to be concern about real needs, not wants, he explained.
Because it encompasses a large volume of land, Gillaspie sees deteriorating roads with little funding available as a challenge facing District 4. He also says there is a need to work together with all cities and townships to come up with workable policies that are in the best interest of all concerned.
Gillaspie has a long business background explaining that he opened his first business at age 16. He said he has acquired a vast knowledge which he wants to share with Sibley County.
An Iowa native, Gillaspie served as an Army Ranger in the Vietnam War. He is a member of the American Legion, VFW, and Disabled American Veterans (DAV). Gillaspie lives in Green Isle Township. He has been married to his wife Jean for 33 years. They have one son.
Unemployment, meeting the educational needs of the youth and the loss of local government aid (LGA) are just three major issues facing Sibley County and District 4 according to District 4 County Commissioner candidate Kathi Gruenhagen.
“I am running for county commissioner because I have the desire to serve and protect the public,” said Gruenhagen. “I am a fiscal conservative who believes the solution is not in more taxation but also that we cannot cut our way to prosperity.”
Gruenhagen has had experience in the public sector with most of the time spent working with finances. She has had almost 10 years of work experience in the private sector and over 12 years in management positions. Gruenhagen has also served three area counties in human services, in an auditor/treasurer’s office, and in county administration as HR/Safety Coordinator.
“I have worked with property taxes, property maintenance, county ordinances, state statutes, and drainage issues,” said Gruenhagen of her county experience.
Gruenhagen grew up just over the county line in Renville County. A graduate of Concordia University, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management and Communications. She and her husband own and operate her husband’s family’s original homestead in Moltke Township. Gruenhagen is involved with numerous volunteer activities and has had experience lobbying at the state capitol.
Lorenz believes her past work in government would be an essential tool in dealing with the problems and challenges facing Sibley County today. “Having served on many boards, committees and commissions in the past, I have an understanding of government function and limits,” Lorenz said.
Financial health is the primary issue facing Sibley County, according to Lorenz. State and federal governments have been growing and spending at unsustainable rates, which will impact how the County receives operating funds, she explained. The second largest issue will be how to support and encourage growth in the private sector efficiently.
Lorenz believes a more aggressive approach is needed when promoting agriculture businesses and production in Sibley County “We also need to continue to pursue “smart” government with townships, cities and county working together in as many areas as possible,” she sad. “Maintaining infrastructure in these difficult economic times will be an issue, the scope of which will depend on the future growth and industry here in Sibley County.”
Lorenz served the County for 12 years on the Sibley County Economic Development Board. She also served eight years as a New Auburn city council member, seven years as a Sibley County loan committee board member, three+ years on the Sibley County Children’s Collaborative Board, and more than three years on the Sibley County trail committee. Lorenz stated that she served on many other boards and committees for the County that “sunsetted” as projects were completed.
Lorenz, who lives in New Auburn, has been a “retired” business owner/manager since 1992. She has five biological children and five stepchildren.
Green Isle resident Luayn Murphy believes she has the education and background needed to be a county commissioner during a time when local government is facing many challenges.
Murphy, a former member of the Le Sueur County Board, has been a City Administrator for eleven years. She has served the cities of Mountain Lake, Belle Plaine and Mayer.
A career in government, for Murphy, began as a human services technician at the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center. During that time she served on various committees for the Le Sueur County Board. Murphy is currently chairperson of the League of Minnesota Cities Local Economies Committee.
Murphy says she is running for commissioner because she believes she can make a difference in county government. She believes the major issues facing the county are: the loss of local government aid; an increase in demand for services; dropping market values; and a time when fiscal responsibility and a vision for the future is imperative. Murphy also labeled mandates in social and human services a “major issue” for counties.
Comments supporting candidates are encouraged. Comments criticizing a particular candidate will be held until a rebuttal is available from the candidate.