Final results: Vareberg defeats Skarie in tight race for Becker County Board, Okeson defeats Mackner

Richard Vareberg.jpg
Richard Vareberg

Challenger Richard Vareberg beat incumbent Don Skarie, 1,868 votes to 1,722 votes, or 52% to 48%, in the Becker County Board District 4 race Tuesday.

Incumbent John Okeson defeated challenger Terry L. Mackner 1,844 votes to 1,354 votes, or 57% to 42%, in the Becker County Board District 3 race -- with 10 write-in votes for other candidates.

Commissioner Barry Nelson, who ran unopposed in District 5, was also reelected. All three winners will serve four-year terms on the board.

A political newcomer, Vareberg, 56, is the owner and operator of Vareberg Backhoe Service, an excavation company, and he has been self-employed for 35 years. He is married, with seven children and 11 grandchildren.

“I consider myself an avid outdoorsman and I spend most of my free time at the lake,” he said. “I am a devout Christian with a great deal of integrity, accountability, and conscientiousness.”


He was strongly opposed to the county's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the state-mandated preventive measures. “I have a strong belief in the liberties of our residents,” he said in a questionnaire sent out by this newspaper. “I do not believe that mandates should prevent anyone from operating a business or attending activities, such as church. I understand COVID-19 brought uncertain times and uncertain threats. However, we should not shut down small business and allow big business to operate, all of our businesses should be considered essential.”

Skarie has served on the Becker County Board since 2010, and was a Detroit Township supervisor from 2006 to 2010.

His family owned and operated the Skarie Turkey Farm from 1972 to 2015 and Lakeview Greenhouses from 2000 to the present (His son, John, is now operating the business.) The family has run Lakeview Catering since 2012.

Skarie has been involved with the Becker County Fair Board, the Lakeland Mental Health Board, and Trinity Lutheran Church Council, among many others.

Before joining the board, Okeson served as a Lakeview Township supervisor, and was a long-time Becker County Highway Department maintenance superintendent.

Okeson has a road maintenance and consulting service that works with states, counties, townships and private companies across the Midwest. He serves on the Trinity Lutheran Church Council, and is a Patriot Guard member. “I enjoy motorcycling and all outdoor activities,” he said, including “hunting with my granddaughters.”

Okeson sees the county budget as a major issue for next year: “With a forecast for a large state budget deficit, the county will need to be able to withstand some state funding cuts, possibly to County Program Aid funds, as we are already seeing cuts in funding to state-aid road funding for maintenance for 2021,” he said in answer to a questionnaire from this newspaper. “We will need to hold to an as-needs budget only for the next several years without putting additional burden on the taxpayers.”

Mackner is president of Mackner Excavation Inc. He grew up in Detroit Lakes and went to Detroit Lakes High school, according to his Facebook page. He served in the Army and is married to Susie Ihry Mackner.


District 3 includes these townships and cities

  • Burlington Township

  • Erie Township

  • Homesville Township

  • Lake View Township

  • City of Frazee

District 4 includes these townships and cities:

  • Audubon Township

  • Detroit Township Precinct 1

  • Detroit Township Precinct 2

  • Richwood Township

  • City of Audubon

  • City of Detroit Lakes Ward 1

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