Letter: Not seeking reelection this fall

Published 8:30 pm Friday, April 12, 2024

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I am announcing that I do not intend to run for re-election this fall. I have been proud to serve the people of District 3 as your county commissioner, but my wife, Lioba, and I would like to spend more time traveling while our health is still reasonably good. I recently celebrated my 76th birthday and would be over 80 at the end of another term.

I am announcing now to give people time to think about running, as filings for the commissioner positions will open May 21 and end June 4. It is my hope that someone from Ward 5 in Albert Lea will run for commissioner. Freeborn County has a population of about 32,000 people and over 18,000 of that number are residents of Albert Lea. Property taxes from the city of Albert Lea account for around half the property tax income for the county. Residents of Albert Lea must have a say in how the county is run and how the tax system works. You may have read in the paper that the cost of design and engineering for the Highway 13 trail will be split 50/50 between the city of Albert Lea and Freeborn County. This means the city property tax paid by Albert Lea taxpayers will pay for half of the cost, but the city taxpayers are also county taxpayers — providing half of the county’s portion. A total of 75% of the cost for city taxpayers and county taxpayers outside of the city will pay 25% of the cost. I point this out to show Albert Lea residents they need representation on the county board.

During my first term, a fellow resident of Albert Lea Ted Herman was also on the Freeborn County Commission. At that time, we set aside $750,000 into an economic development fund. The commission combined with the city and other partners to set up a scholarship for students from Freeborn County to help pay the cost of tuition for Riverland students. The new Freeborn County Commission has not spent anything for economic development, and at the last couple of workshop meetings have talked of pulling the county out of the scholarship funding agreement. During last year’s budget meeting, they decided to cut the county’s funding of the Albert Lea library as it was above the minimum required by law. At about the same time, they worked to raise the wheelage tax to the maximum allowed by law. These actions increased the cost to the city property taxpayers and decreased the costs to the county property taxpayers.

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Freeborn County commissioner pay is reasonable at about $27,000 annually. You have to be able to attend meetings at 8:30 a.m. three Tuesdays each month. Depending on committee assignments, there will be several other meetings to attend regularly throughout a given month. We need someone with a vision for growth in the county by working with the city, someone to help set goals that our county administrator and department heads can achieve. You don’t have to be a micromanager or quit your job to be a good candidate. I sincerely hope a qualified Albert Lean from District 3 will consider this opportunity and throw their hat in the ring.

John Forman
Albert Lea