It’s about getting the county to a new level

Published 5:49 am Sunday, October 28, 2012

Column: Guest Column, by Ron Steckman

Thanks to all of you who supported me in the primary election. I believe the questionnaire I was asked to address by the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce would give you a pretty good idea on my position on a number of issues should I be elected county commissioner for the 3rd District. The following is that questionnaire.

Ron Steckman

Please provide a brief bio highlighting experience and accomplishments that qualify you for seat you are seeking:

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I am Ron Steckman, candidate for 3rd District county commissioner.

• Twenty-five years as president/CEO of Freeborn-Mower Electric Cooperative.

• Original incorporator and board member of National Telecommunications Cooperative, located in Hemdon, Va., providing telecommunications to the entire USA with revenues in excess of $140 million annually.

• Founder of the Cooperative Response Center located in Austin, Minn., with new facilities in both Tennessee and Texas. CRC provides outage call services for the majority of cooperative throughout the entire USA.

• Served on the state Alzheimer’s Board of Directors. Locally, on Naeve Hospital, Chamber of Commerce and Jobs Inc. board of directors.

• Freeborn-Mower made numerous economic development loans locally such as Exol, Trail’s, Walmart, Comfort Inn and numerous others without the loss of our investment.

• Received the National Gold Seal Award for the handling of the 1991 mega ice storm.

• During my career I worked closely with both city and county officials.

Why are you running for this seat?

Friends and others have encouraged me to run for this office and be an advocate for the taxpayers. Some of my other goals are answered in the following questions.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing Freeborn County as a whole and how would you address it?

If elected, I would propose an annual meeting for taxpayers. Upon completion of the county’s annual budget the commissioners would explain how they spent our taxpayer dollars the previous 12 months, not with an operating statement and balance sheet but with graphs and pie charts comparing changes in departmental costs to the previous year. Show us a comparison how Freeborn County’s operating costs compare with similar size counties in the state. This would be followed with an explanation of what is proposed in the next 12-month budget. Closing with a question and answer session with the taxpayers. The whole process would take approximately two hours.

What would be the top-three priorities if elected?

1. Transparency.

2. Economic development.

3. Cutting costs.

Should county government be actively involved in attracting and retaining jobs? Why or why not? If yes, please describe the role for the county in this process.

Yes, the county should host an economic development effort with the entire community.

Are there any services that the county does not provide that you believe it should?

Without growth I do not believe taxpayers can afford any additional new services.

How would you characterize the business climate in Freeborn County? What if anything would you do to change it?

I believe it is substandard! Again, a public forum would be valuable in allowing area residents to be part of the solution.

What specific steps would you support to promote economic development?

A. Identify what assets we have to attract new business, if it is not I-35 or I-90, what is it? We don’t have mountains or an ocean.

B. Ninety percent of the traffic that goes through Owatonna also goes through Albert Lea, plus we have Interstate 90. Invite officials from Owatonna to our public forum to tell us why they have been successful in attracting new businesses so we can identify the difference between Albert Lea and Owatonna. The excuse for Albert Lea is that Owatonna is closer to the Twin Cities. Let’s contact some of the businesses that chose to locate in Owatonna and see if that was an important issue.

C. Contact businesses that considered locating in Albert Lea. What was their reasoning to locate elsewhere. This information would be valuable.

D. As a community effort, find out what steps we can take together to improve our community.

E. Develop a strategy and timetable monitored by area residents.

F. If the current approach isn’t working, try something new.

Is there anything else you would like to share with voters not covered above?

Commissioner Jim Nelson has stated that one commissioner can promise and not deliver. That is why, if elected, I would need the public to encourage their commissioner to create a greater involvement for all area residents.

I hope my beliefs are the same as the majority of citizens of Freeborn County who want to know how their property tax dollars are spent and want to see our community thrive, I would appreciate your vote on Nov. 6.

A vote for me is a vote for you!


Rural Albert Lea resident Ron Steckman is a candidate in the Commissioner District 3 race.