Sheriff, commissioner candidates tackle different questions

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 25, 2002

Candidates for Freeborn County sheriff and county commissioner took on some less-discussed issues during one of their final debates of the campaign Thursday night, answering questions about racial profiling and regulations on businesses and farmers, among others.

In the sheriff debate, Mark Harig drew a hearty round of applause when he started off by mentioning his friendship with opponent Phil Bartusek. &uot;We’ve been friends for 20 years and we’re going to be friends after the election,&uot; Harig said.

They went on to show similarities in their thinking about public safety, but managed to highlight difference in their approach to problems.

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Both agreed that drugs are an increasing problem in Freeborn County. As they have throughout the campaign, both said getting an officer back on the regional drug task force was crucial. Bartusek stuck to his position that curbing teen smoking and use of alcohol is a good way to prevent future drug use, and Harig reiterated his stand that an aggressive approach to breaking up local drug rings was the best approach.

When asked about racial profiling &045; the practice of paying special attention to some residents based on their race &045; neither said they considered it a problem locally, but both took the opportunity to advocate better relations between law enforcement and the county’s

minority communities.

&uot;We need to get out and invest in cultural diversity and meet with minority groups,&uot; Bartusek said.

&uot;We have to remember we’re dealing with violators,&uot; Harig said. &uot;We’re not dealing with cultures.&uot; He said the sheriff’s department should continue improving its relationship with minorities, and said the department should be more bilingual.

Harig, a former investigator/supervisor and member of the drug task force, and Bartusek, a police lieutenant and former patrol officer, are facing off in the first open-seat sheriff election since the 1960s in Freeborn County.

In the contest for Fourth District county commissioner, incumbent Dave Mullenbach and challenger Truman Thrond got a break from talking about the courthouse issue, instead answering questions about social services, business and farm regulations and the watershed issue.

On that last topic, Mullenbach said the county is constantly working to secure grants to get lake and watershed cleanup moving.

&uot;I’m a proponent and I’ve been a proponent all along of clean water in Freeborn County,&uot; Mullenbach said.

Thrond said the issue is a thorny one. &uot;It’s a larger problem than meets the eye,&uot; the former county administrator said. &uot;It’s wonderful that the community people have met tirelessly in recent years to form some plans.&uot; He said heavy metals at the bottom of Albert Lea Lake make dredging it a hard proposition.

In appealing to voters, Thrond said he wants to be a representative for all. &uot;I’m a great believer in the people,&uot; he said. He said he would provide &uot;more efficient and more responsible&uot; leadership.

Mullenbach highlighted his experience, both as county board chairman for the last two years and as an IBM employee for 25 years, and said he has a record of proactive, progressive leadership.