MEET THE CANDIDATES FOR POLK COUNTY COMMISSIONERS

Three districts on the Polk County Commissioners are up for election this year in Districts 1, 3, and 5.

The candidates in District 1 are incumbent Jerry Jacobson, and opponent Travis Johnson. We asked each candidate to introduce themselves and why they are running. 

Q: Would you please tell us about yourself?

Jacobson: “I’m a resident of Polk County. I’ve lived here almost all of my life. I spent four years in Seattle and four years in Minneapolis. Other than that, I’ve lived in Polk County for all of my life. I’m married to my wife, Lynn. We have three children and three grandchildren. I think Polk County is one of the best places to live in the whole world.”

Johnson: “I recently retired from the U.S. Army in 2018 after 20 years of active service. I have three kids. Christopher is a UND student, Alexis who just graduated from the University of Minnesota last year and Jamie, who we adopted this year and who’s a senior at Crookston High School. I have a passion to serve. The issues are important to me. I want to get the most out of every tax dollar (the government) gets. I want to get something of value. I don’t want to waste it. People don’t mind paying taxes, but if they’re paying their taxes, they want them to be utilized. If we’re going to be told that we can’t use our land because the state needs to have access to it, then make sure you’re only taking as much as you need. Common sense is what’s missing. That’s what I hope to bring in is a common sense mentality.”

Q: Why are you running?

Jacobson: “I’ve got 12 years of experience in this job. I really enjoy the job. I enjoy working with people. I feel like I’m a good listener and people are comfortable talking with me. You can’t buy experience. I feel like I can go into the next four years. My health is good, I’ve got good energy and I look forward to working with the county for another four years.”

Johnson: “I’ve always had an interest in politics. I went to this (county commissioner’s) meeting, and asked them, ‘Hey. Just tell me why you need (this land) and I’ll be fine. Not only did they not tell me, but one of the council members was on her phone the whole time I was in there. She later told me that she was researching the issue on her phone, but to me, I felt like I wasn’t heard. When you look at the minutes, it said I only had a zoning concern. It doesn’t say what the concern was They didn’t put much detail into it at all. It’s like I was just a blip on the radar screen. Then, when I started talking to other people, that’s when I found out that Polk County, as far as zoning is concerned, people who want to start a farm go elsewhere, because they don’t want to deal with zoning in Polk County. That’s a problem. We have tax bases not coming here, because they feel like we’re over-regulated.”

Q: Anything you would like to add?

Jacobson: “Polk County has been good to me. I just feel comfortable as a Polk County Commissioner. My strong suit is listening, I believe. I don’t always get the answers my constituents want, but I always listen to them. I treat everybody with respect, so I feel like I can easily go another four years.”

Johnson: “I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you all. With COVID, campaigning is a challenge. You can’t go door-to-door. You can’t go to the (county) fair and shake everyone’s hands. As someone who’s not from here, I don’t have the name recognition of Jerry (Jacobson) in there forever. So, the opportunity to get my name is out is very valuable for me.”

Running unopposed in District 3 in incumbent Gary Willhite. We asked Willhite to introduce himself and why he is running.

Q: Would you please tell us about yourself?

Willhite: “I’ve lived in the city of Crookston since 1978. I raised four children with my life, Lynn. I love the place. I’ve worked at UMC for the last 43 years and going to be retiring at the end of this year. I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in city government and now for the last four years, with county government.”

Q: Why are you running?

Willhite: “I just find it fascinating. I think I first got started, because of issues and things like that which I think could be handled a little bit more effectively. I love being involved and helping other commissioners, council members or board members make some decisions that give the city of Crookston a lot of opportunities to grow and be successful.”

Q: Anything you would like to add?

Willhite: “Four years went fast, and it’s a big learning curve. There is a lot involved in the county business. Each of us serve in 10-12 different committees, so that keeps you busy. It’s been an interesting year in 2020. I’ll be glad to move onto another year and hopefully, we’ll get things back on track.”

In District 5, Polk County Commissioner Don Diedrich announced his retirement. Two candidates are running to replace him. They are Mark Holy and Tim Finseth. Holy declined an interview with KROX. We asked Finseth to introduce himself, and why he is running. 

Q: Would you please tell us about yourself?

Finseth: “I’m a lifelong resident of Polk County. I’ve lived and worked here my whole life. I raised my family here. Polk County is definitely a big part of my life. I had the opportunity of serving part of Polk County in the Minnesota State Legislature. I did that for 10 years, and it was always a pleasure to get to know the people, and take those views and concerns down to St. Paul and represent the people from the area.”

Q: Why are you running?

Finseth: “I haven’t been in any office for a while, and I’ve been feeling the need that it’s time to get back and try to do my civic duty and do what I can to help out the community. I’ve always been very interested in government and how it operates, and I want to do what I can to help and improve things. You always want to leave your home better than the way you found it.”

Q: Anything you would like to add?

Finseth: “This coming year is going to be stressful for all local units of government. If you’re in a rural part of the state, budget is going to be a very big concern. The COVID pandemic has just upturned the whole economy and it’s really going to hit home here in the next couple of years. We need to do our best job to protect our employees we have out here and protect the services we provide. We also have to protect our tax base so we don’t drive away business and opportunity for people to live and enjoy the area.”