It’s a real election

Published 9:35 am Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Freeborn County 5th Commissioner District candidates

There were no contested races in Albert Lea for school board, city council or county board in the November election.

But for the vacant Freeborn County 5th Commissioner District seat, up for grabs next month, there are seven candidates. Voters actually have some decisions to make this time around.

The field of seven will be narrowed to two in a special primary election on Jan. 18, followed by a special general election on March 15.

The 5th District consists of Pickerel Lake Township plus Albert Lea’s 3rd and 6th wards.

Three of the current candidates, Curtis Smith, Mike Lee and Tony Pestorious, ran for the position in 2008.

Former commissioner Linda Tuttle defeated Lee on a vote of 1,752 to 1,548, to win the seat.

The seat was vacated Aug. 1 when Tuttle resigned. She is accused of using her company, Albert Lea Abstract Co., to divert money into her own accounts to pursue an alleged gambling addiction. She was scheduled to appear in Freeborn County District Court on Nov. 12 but the hearing was canceled and a potential plea agreement is on the table.

Tuttle is facing 12 counts of felony theft by swindle, along with one count of racketeering.

According to Freeborn County Auditor-Treasurer Dennis Distad, the new term will begin on March 28, 2011.

Below is a brief bio for each candidate, listed in alphabetical order by last name, including a short Q&A section. Some responses were edited for space.

Chad T. Hayson

• Age: 45

Chad Hayson

• Family: wife, Suzan, and two daughters

• Occupation: owns a couple of websites, writes software and does some computer networking

• Education: Attended college at Winona State University for a short time after getting out of the U.S. Army

• How long have you lived in the area? Forty years.

• Why are you running for the position of District 5 commissioner? I’ve watched the County government recklessly spend our tax dollars for about eight years now, and it doesn’t seem that we’ve been able to elect people who are willing to make the tough choices that have to be made. They’re destroying our community with these property taxes, and the county board doesn’t seem to want to make the unpopular decision to reduce staff up there, or to hurt staff’s feelings by telling them “no.”

• What are your goals if elected? What changes would you bring to the county? If elected, my goals are to oppose any increase in our taxes, and to do everything possible to get our nearly $40 million budget under control. And, I’d like to see all hiring handled through one department so that the department heads will no longer be able to give their friends and family a “temporary job” that always seems to become a permanent position.

Marilyn A. Roche

• Age: 57

Marilyn Roche

• Family: husband, Mark, and three children

• Occupation: special education para educator at Albert Lea High School

• Education: Associate degree in applied technology and a medical secretary diploma from Riverland Community College

• How long have you lived in the area? Twenty-nine years.

• Why are you running for the position of District 5 commissioner? I feel it would be a natural progression for me, enhancing the experience I have gained over the past 14 years as the clerk for Albert Lea Township.

• What are your goals if elected? What changes would you bring to the county? A strong agriculture and business climate equals more jobs, and a better work environment, bringing more money into the county and in turn, leading to reduced taxes for us all. Staying within the budget and controlling spending are important issues that need to be focused on at all times. My stance is to take a rational approach to solving community problems, weighing and researching each issue as it comes up before acting on it.

Hugh O’Byrne

• Age: 69

Hugh O'Byrne

• Family: wife, Karen, two daughters and seven grandchildren

• Occupation: Realtor

• Education: graduated from Albert Lea High School; degree in business and marketing from Mankato State University

• How long have you lived in the area? I’m a lifelong resident.

• Why are you running for the position of District 5 commissioner? I want to try to help out, get things done and to be part of the community.

• What are your goals if elected? What changes would you bring to the county? I don’t have any ax to grind or goal in mind, but I would like to see the city and county work together. Other than that, I’d try to make things go smoothly in the county. Not having any experience, I’m going into this with an open mind.

Tony Pestorious

• Age: 55

Tony Pestorious

• Family: wife, Vicki, two daughters and four grandchildren

• Occupation: employee of the USDA food safety inspection service, meat and poultry division

• Education: graduated from Albert Lea High School in 1973, attended Texas A&M University and has participated in work-related continuing education

• How long have you lived in the area? Born and raised in Freeborn County, I have lived here nearly all of my life. We have lived in rural Albert Lea for the past 13 years. We are the fifth generation of my family to live in Pickerel Lake Township.

• Why are you running for the position of District 5 commissioner? I will bring a level head, an openness to listen and a passion for making this a great community. I believe our property taxes are going up too rapidly. I understand a lot of the spending is mandated, but there are some things we can do. We need to make better, more strategic decisions with the funds that we do control. The new windmill project is also going to be a tremendous revenue generator for the county. I don’t want to see those funds going to more spending; I would like to see the funds used to reduce debt and lower taxes.

• What are your goals if elected? What changes would you bring to the county? I appreciate the importance of having opportunities available for our young people so that they can live, work and thrive in and around Freeborn County. I have always enjoyed the wonderful natural resources of Freeborn County, and as county commissioner, would like to see those resources promoted.

Curtis Smith

• Age: 46

Curtis Smith

• Family: wife, Jana, and two children

• Occupation: small business owner

• Education: graduated from Taylor University in Upland, Ind., with a degree in mass communications

• How long have you lived in the area? Eighteen years.

• Why are you running for the position of District 5 commissioner? I’m deeply involved in business in the community and want to see lower taxes, more job growth and I want to give back. I deal with budgets every day; I have hired and fired and made budget cuts. When it comes to money, making cuts or additions and other people’s money, that’s what I do 24/7.

• What are your goals if elected? What changes would you bring to the county? First off, I’ll try to learn as much as I can. I’d look at getting rid of duplicity. I am tight and my job is to cut costs. Albert Lea is a fantastic community and there’s a lot of ways to save money. I want to keep businesses flourishing and jobs here. I realize not every kid’s going to stay here, but I want to give kids the opportunity to come back. If we knew businesses were experiencing peril and hard times, I’d like to get the community behind them. I think it’s awesome that six other good, quality candidates are running. It gives the public a wide variety.

Mike Lee

• Age: 55

Mike Lee

• Family: wife, Renee, four children and three grandchildren

• Occupation: health care with Elm Homes and Helping Hands of Minnesota

• Education: graduate of Glenville High School and of Riverland Community College

• How long have you lived in the area? Nearly all my life.

• Why are you running for the position of District 5 commissioner? This is the public office that has a major effect on our daily lives: health and human services, building permits, drainage systems, roads, bridges, dams and water issues. I want to be a voice for the common person, who feels that they don’t have a voice. I tried to give a brochure to a guy who said, “Why bother? Why should I even bother to vote? People in office don’t listen and don’t care. They have their own agendas and they’re going to do what they want.” I don’t want to be like that. There is a superiority strain running through many politicians where they see themselves as above the law, above the people and therefore above public accountability and that’s not right.

• What are your goals if elected? What changes would you bring to the county? Hold down property taxes, restore trust in our local leaders, economic development, safe roads and bridges, agriculture, clean water, soil and air, and replacement of the Shell Rock River dam. I would like to see the city of Albert Lea and Freeborn County meet quarterly to see where we could work together on issues. We need to look at ways to combine services to help hold down property taxes.

Doug Conn

• Age: 62

Doug Conn

• Family: wife, Karen, three children and nine grandchildren

• Occupation: sales consultant

• Education: graduated from Wadena-Deer Creek Senior High School and from Anoka Ramsey Community College with an associate degree in sales and marketing

• How long have you lived in the area? Thirty-two years.

• Why are you running for the position of District 5 commissioner? I will bring a common sense approach to government. It’s something I’ve wanted to do, either locally or with the county. I have a good, successful business background and community involvement as a member of the city of Albert Lea’s Planning and Zoning Board of Appeals and the building and maintenance committee at St. Theodore Church.

• What are your goals if elected? What changes would you bring to the county? The biggest thing is to have a balanced budget, so I will look at ways where we can reduce costs and spend the taxpayers’ money wisely.