Job growth, dam replacement, road repair

Published 8:35 am Thursday, March 10, 2011

Column: Mike Lee, Guest Column

Hi! My name is Mike Lee, and I am running for the District 5 County Commissioner’s seat.

Mike Lee

I’ve been going to the homes of the citizens of the 5th District, talking with you at your doorsteps and listening to you voice your opinions and concerns on the workings of county government. For those who were not home, I left information for you and how to contact me with any concerns you have.

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Why am I out door-knocking? Simply knowing where you stand on the issues gives me the insight necessary to best represent you if I’m elected as your next commissioner. That’s why I feel it’s very important to give you every opportunity to let your feelings, opinions and needs be heard.

Besides overseeing the affairs of the county, a commissioner needs to look ahead with a vision of the future. Like many of you, I want to see more local employment opportunities. Seeing our empty industrial parks fill up, our young people staying here to work and raise their families, and more people moving here after college is a goal we can work on together. Looking to the Legislature to come up with a new type of JOBZ program that helps counties like Freeborn lure companies here to start new businesses is one of many avenues that I’ll pursue in making this vision a reality. Other efforts will include helping our local small businesses to grow and expand.

I’d like to see a stronger presence of county government on the Albert Lea Economic and Development and Port Authority boards. ALEDA and the Port Authority are working to bring jobs to Albert Lea and Freeborn County. Currently, three members from the Albert Lea City Council are sitting on these boards, but only one commissioner has a seat at the table. I would like to see more representation from the county.

Replacing the Shell Rock River dam with a quality dam is long overdue. Right now, the east end of the dam is completely gone and the water is being held back by field rock. In other sections, the bottom of the dam is eroded away. Some places have what appear to be 2-by-6 boards holding back the water. If the dam bursts, Albert Lea Lake will be lower, and there’ll be flooding downstream. A new dam would add to our natural resources and optimize our outdoor recreational tourism appeal, by stabilizing the lake’s water level, improving fishing opportunities and providing a safe portage to fish and canoe below the dam. What better gift can we leave future generations than to clean up our lakes and streams?

One death on our roads is one death to many. We need to practice diligence in keeping our roads and bridges safe. Using rumble strips at blind intersections and maintaining the use of deer crossing signs in areas that have high deer-car crashes could potentially save your life and the lives of your loved ones.

A good working relationship between the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners and the Albert Lea City Council is imperative. I encourage these two forms of government to meet quarterly to find ways to work together on projects that will hold down costs and save the taxpayers’ dollars.

Our local chamber of commerce was right when it voiced its opposition to the local-government-aid cuts being proposed in the Minnesota Legislature to cities and counties in Greater Minnesota. The cuts to Freeborn County alone could be roughly $725,000. Add in the proposed cuts to the Albert Lea of $1.1 million and it’s highly likely that property taxes will increase while numerous community services endure budget cuts. The Legislature needs to understand that counties like Freeborn are not on a level playing field like the counties in the metro area. We need to bring back some of our tax dollars to help fund basic services that the citizens rely on.

I am the only candidate who has the experience necessary to step in immediately. Three years of consistent attendance at county commissioners meetings has helped me learn how to serve county government effectively and efficiently. My conversations with our county administrator help me to discuss county issues with you in depth. Dedication, commitment, a strong ethical core and experience are what you need in a county commissioner and are what I bring to the table.

I would be honored to serve as your next District 5 county commissioner. I’ll do all I can to work toward making Freeborn County a great place to live, work, raise a family and to spend one’s golden years enjoying life to its fullest. I ask for your vote on March 15 so that we can work together in making our county its very best.

Mike Lee is a personal care attendant with Helping Hands of Minnesota and a residential instructor with Elm Homes.