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District 3 candidates for Becker County Board discuss issues

Gerry Schram, running for District 3 Becker County Commissioner seat.

There are four candidates running for three open positions on the Becker County Board of Commissioners this fall: Incumbent District 1 Commissioner Larry Knutson and District 5 Commissioner Barry Nelson are unopposed in seeking re-election, while incumbent District 3 Commissioner Karen Mulari will face off against challenger Gerry Schram.

During individual interviews last week, Mulari and Schram were asked to provide general information regarding their background, then asked a series of four questions:

Question 1: What qualifications do you feel you would bring to the Becker County Board of Commissioners?

Question 2: What made you decide to run for office?

Question 3: Minnesota is expecting a $2.6 billion budget shortfall for the next biennium. The shortfall will likely result in a mid-year decrease of county local government aid, causing a shortfall in projected revenues for Becker County in 2009. How should the county start preparing for these revenue losses, as well as increasing financial pressure from two more years of state-imposed levy limits?

Question 4: Are there any other issues facing the Becker County Board over the next four years that you feel are of pressing importance, and how would you propose to solve them?

Name: Karen Mulari

Age: 44

Residence: Sugarbush Township, eight miles east of Richwood

Occupation: Accountant; incumbent county commissioner

Family: Husband, Dan; two daughters, Jenna and Alycia; one grandson, two more grandchildren on the way

Question 1: I have four years of experience as a county commissioner, which involved a lot of training...I also have over 20 years of experience in accounting for public health agencies, including Multi-County Nursing, St. Joseph's Health Services and Norman-Mahnomen Public Health.

Question 2: The last time I ran it was because I felt you can't complain (about government) unless you're willing to do something about it. Four years later, I feel I've learned an awful lot -- and it's not fair to the public for me to have gotten all this training and not continue to serve them.

Question 3: I think our county has done well in preparing (for an anticipated budget shortfall). Some of the things we are doing now...we're looking at a hiring freeze, how we can consolidate and streamline, make services better and still cut costs. It may come to a point where we have to cut a service. I expect we, as a county board, over the next couple of years will have to make some hard decisions...nobody has all the answers, but I feel being able to work together to come up with a solution will make a big difference.

Question 4: There are a lot of issues, but finances will continue to be our biggest problem -- and along with that comes a lot of other (related) issues. Depending on what the economy does...we could be faced with a lot scarier picture than we are right now. But I do think it (the economy) is going to turn around.

Name: Gerry ("Punky") Schram

Age: 62

Residence: Erie Township, rural Detroit Lakes

Occupation: Semi-retired, employed part-time as a custodian at the Minnesota Department of Transportation through a cleaning service

Family: Wife Janis; two sons, Bill and Tom

Question 1: I'm chairman of the Becker County Economic Development Authority, and I serve on the county housing board; I was on the advisory committee for (deciding what to do with) tax-forfeited land in Burlington Township, and on the task force for the Swift Turkey Plant in Frazee. I've also served on the Detroit Lakes Youth Baseball Committee, the Wild Rice Electric Cooperative Advisory Board, and I learned how to deal with people (from) selling cars for 34 and a half years.

I have also gone to county board meetings regularly over the past 4-5 years.

Question 2: Some people asked me to run, and I decided that I think I can add a different dimension to the board. I have very passionate concerns about our environment -- our water quality must be preserved or bettered, and we must maintain our 75,000 acres of tax-forfeited land for future generations, so all citizens may be able to enjoy it.

Question 3: We need to be proactive in our planning in order to be prepared for budget shortfalls -- not just react when the shortfalls do hit. We should watch what we're budgeting for next year, and watch our commitments (to funding new projects).

Question 4: Becker County has some water quality issues -- some of which can be dealt with by how we treat our rural sewage -- and we need to be very concerned about development around our lakes.

Many citizens are also very concerned about rising taxes, which relates to taking a very conservative approach to county spending -- but not to the point where future generations will pay for our shortsightedness.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454