County hopefuls talk ideas at forum

Published 3:10 pm Saturday, October 13, 2012

Freeborn County commissioner candidates faced questions about job growth, a possible human services merger and their strengths Thursday during a forum at Albert Lea City Hall.

Incumbent 1st District Commissioner Glen Mathiason and opponent Neal Gjersvik participated, along with incumbent 3rd District Commissioner Jim Nelson and opponent Ron Steckman.

Steckman, the former president of Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services, said he thinks the community is being stifled and that the county should organize a public forum to allow people to get involved and decide how to change the county’s course.

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“What we’re doing is not working,” he said. “Obviously we need to change it.”

Gjersvik, a Manchester Township official for 12 years, said he thinks county officials should go to businesses in town and ask what brought them to the area. He also said he thinks Freeborn County has high potential, particularly for transportation.

Mathiason, a lifelong Freeborn County resident, said he believes the county encourages job growth by supporting the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency.

Nelson, who has been the 3rd District commissioner for eight years, agreed.

Human services merger

For many months, the county commissioners considered being a part of a 12-county human services merger.

What ultimately caused the county to back out, Nelson said, was that one county wanted almost 50 percent control over the entire plan because it was larger.

The county hopes to get together with a few counties on a smaller scale to proceed with a separate merger, he said.

“We’re probably better off to look for another partner at a smaller level now,” Mathiason said.

Gjersvik said if the proposal had stayed at what it was when the 12-county merger first started he would have supported it.

“I would think it would be a wonderful idea,” he said.

Steckman said it comes down to economics and ultimately lowering the burden on the taxpayer.

“We all want a lower property tax bill in any way we can get it,” he said.


Each candidate was given the opportunity to comment on what strengths they could bring to the position of commissioner.

Gjersvik said he is a person who doesn’t like to sit back and let government “happen” to him. He likes to get involved and help move things forward.

Nelson said he likes to listen and talk with others. He also said he has a good background in road construction and works well with the Highway Department.

Mathiason said he is an honest, hardworking person and said when he makes a commitment he sticks with it.

Steckman cited a broad background and experience, from creating a business that has grown to be nationwide to being able to raise $100,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association.

The candidates were also asked questions about collaboration and the Stables area project, among others.