County board approves new commissioner district boundaries

Published 12:42 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved changes in commissioner district boundaries Tuesday, more evenly dividing up the county geographically and giving all but one commissioner district parts of both the city of Albert Lea and rural areas.

Redistricting is the process of redrawing the boundaries of election districts to ensure that the people of each district are equally represented. Local, state and federal government units consider redistricting for elected offices after the U.S. Census every 10 years.

The commissioners considered four options, all of which met statutory requirements, Freeborn County Auditor-Treasurer Pat Martinson said. They ultimately selected what was labeled as Plan E. 

The plan gives four of the commissioners area both within Albert Lea and out in the county to represent, except for the 4th District commissioner, who will only cover area within the city. 

Under the new boundaries, the following will be included in each district:

• District 1: Freeborn Township, Hartland Township, Manchester Township, Bath Township, Bancroft Township Precinct 1, city of Freeborn, city of Hartland, city of Manchester, city of Clarks Grove, Albert Lea City Ward 2

• District 2: London Township, Shell Rock Township, Freeman Township, Oakland Township, Hayward Township, Albert Lea Township Precinct 1, city of Glenville, city of Myrtle, city of Hayward, Albert Lea City Ward 6

• District 3: Albert Lea Township Precinct 4, Bancroft Township Precinct 2, Geneva Township, Riceland Township, Newry Township, Moscow Township, city of Geneva, city of Hollandale, Albert Lea Ward 5

• District 4: Albert Lea Township Precinct 3, Albert Lea Ward 1, Albert Lea Ward 4

• District 5: Albert Lea Township Precinct 2, Pickerel Lake Township, Nunda Township, Mansfield Township, Alden Township, Carlston Township, city of Twin Lakes, city of Emmons, city of Alden, city of Conger, Albert Lea Ward 3

Other plans on the table included Plan B, which would have given the 1st and 2nd District commissioners a majority of the geographical space in the county, while the 3rd, 4th and 5th District commissioners would have only covered space inside Albert Lea city limits. 

Plan C would have divided up the rural parts in the county for the 1st, 2nd and 5th district commissioners, with the 3rd and 4th districts remaining solely in the city limits. The 1st District commissioner would cover almost the entire top half of the county in the rural areas.

Plan D would have given each commissioner part of the city of Albert Lea and several township in the county, except for the 3rd District commissioner, who would only cover area within the city. 

First District Commissioner Brad Edwin said he received overwhelming response from the community in favor of Plan E. 

“Everyone that I’ve talked to has been in support of Plan E,” Edwin said. “I just feel that it does move us forward in a positive way for years to come.” 

He thanked all of the people who reached out to him and for those in attendance. 

Belshan, who motioned for the plan, also voiced his support and the people who attended the meeting.  

“It’s good to see government work,” Belshan said. “You start out with something that is flawed, and we tweaked it and tweaked it. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

“I’m very happy with this plan. I’m very happy we have overwhelming support for it.” 

All of the people who spoke at the public hearing on the matter also supported the same plan. 

Mick Delger of rural Glenville questioned why a lot of people didn’t know the redistricting was taking place but said after reviewing the options he thought Plan E best fit the county. 

Al Bakken of Albert Lea Township said he was in favor of Plan E because it allows the commissioners to share the workload in the county. 

Bakken said some of the tile systems in the county are over 50 years old, and sometimes need huge repairs. He thought it was important the commissioners be able to come out and work on issues with residents and landowners. 

Steve Ladlie of Geneva Township, who also has livestock in the Hayward area, said he thought it was important to have representation that was manageable for commissioners. 

He said he also thought the plan would be more fair to all in the county and that it was important to remember this was a long-term plan. 

“This makes it a county board instead of a city board and a county board,” Ladlie said. 

The new districts will be effective May 17 for the 2022 regular primary and general election.

All commissioner seats are up for election this fall under the new boundaries, with candidates in districts 1, 3 and 5 running for two-year terms and candidates in districts 2 and 4 running for four-year terms.