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Primary election is Tuesday: Ben Grimsley strengths are finance and politics

Ben Grimsley isn't taking his campaign for Becker County Board lying down.

He has been knocking on doors and attending county and city meetings on a regular basis.

Grimsley, 25, is a self-employed financial planner at Anchor Financial in the ERA building downtown.

He is single and has owned the business for four years. He is perhaps best known for his run on the Republican ticket against State Rep. Paul Marquart in 2010.

He takes pains to point out that county commissioner is a non-partisan position.

"I don't want to get very partisan," he said. "But as a commissioner, it's a positive thing when people can work with the Legislature. I'm more involved in politics and more in contact with state leaders -- I've stayed in contact with leaders from both sides. I'd probably be the go-to guy for the Legislature (on the County Board)."

Grimsley has a bachelor's degree in finance from the accredited business college at Minnesota State University in Moorhead, where he also studied ecology at some length.

The county and city could do a better job of working together, he said. There was no county representative at a recent West Lake Drive bike trail meeting, he noted, and as someone who attends a lot of city and county meetings, he said that's not unusual.

"I would work with the city council more than past commissioners," he said. "It's a positive thing for the county (for there to be a city-based commission) and a positive thing for the city."

Grimsley volunteers on the executive board at Emmanuel Nursing Home and volunteers on the executive board of the St. Mary's Foundation. He and other financial professionals on the board help people with donation advice, such as how to include charitable giving in their estate planning.

He said he is drawn to health care causes, perhaps because his mother, Barb Schiller, is a social worker at Emmanuel nursing home.

Grimsley is single and enjoys hunting, fishing, and basically "any outdoor recreation," he said, including biking and camping. He loves music, as well, and plays drums, piano and guitar.

Grimsley gets a lot of feedback while out door-knocking. Aquatic invasive species, and funding measures to combat them, are frequently talked about. That's an issue he cares deeply about, with his interest in ecology. "The lakes are a great resource," he says.

Taxes are an issue that often come up as well, he said.

People are extremely interested in his party affiliation, said Grimsley. He considers county commissioner to be an administrative, non-political position -- it's about doing a good job taking care of business on a day to day basis.

"It's our responsibility to run an efficient county," he said.

He finds there is also a great amount of interest in all the development going on around Detroit Lakes.

"Not everyone was excited about the (West Lake Drive) bike trail at that meeting," he said. "But people appreciate the transparency," provided by city officials, and the chance to comment and have questions answered.

That's one of the things local government here does well, he said.

The candidates were asked if they agreed with the county's strict enforcement of zoning laws, which have resulted in decks, retaining walls and other structures -- built without the proper permits -- being torn down.

"We need to follow the rules on the books," Grimsley said. "But I don't know if either the city or the county is particularly proactive helping people to follow the right steps. I want to be a commissioner who is proactive and helps them follow the process."

He is already doing that during the campaign. He stays informed and is able to clarify information and debunk false rumors on all sorts of local government issues when he hears them.

Candidates were also asked if they believe any county departments are under-funded or over-funded and if so, what changes they would make.

"No," Grimsley said. "I'm open to the conversation, but no." He has been attending County Board meetings and would like to attend committee meetings as well if time allowed.

Asked what he believes are the top issues facing the county, Grimsley said:

"Aquatic invasives. From what I understand COLA (the Becker County Coalition of Lake Associations) doesn't feel like they have a close working relationship with the city. They want the county board to be proactive with the Legislature. They feel like we can do a better job as a county on getting funding and making changes by working with the Legislature rather than without them."