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Grimsley and Meyer face off in Becker County Board candidate forum

The forum for Becker County Board and sheriff candidates was hosted by the Detroit Lakes Area League of Women Voters and held in the packed public meeting room at the police department.

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Ben Grimsley, incumbent Becker County Commissioner in District 2, answers a question during a League of Women Voters candidate forum held in the community room at the Detroit Lakes Police Station on Sept. 26, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — Candidates for the District 2 seat on the Becker County Board squared off at a candidate’s forum Monday in Detroit Lakes.

Commissioner Ben Grimsley faces challenger David Meyer on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

District 2 is an urban district that mostly encompasses the city of Detroit Lakes south of Highway 10.

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David Meyer, candidate for Becker County Commissioner in District 2, answers a question during a League of Women Voters candidate forum held in the community room at the Detroit Lakes Police Station on Sept. 26, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Becker County taxpayers are definitely better off now than when he was first elected 10 years ago, Grimsley said in his opening statement. The county’s bond rating has gone up, so it can borrow money at a lower interest rate, and the county property tax burden is lower than in surrounding counties.

Major Detroit Lakes streets like Washington Avenue have been improved with the help of county funds, and the county has a new jail, a much-improved solid waste transfer site, and is building a new public works facility, he said.

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For his part, Meyer said his life experiences as a high school teacher and part owner of the Sandbar II have prepared him to do a good job as county commissioner.

“I can develop positive relationships with employees and colleagues — if you don’t have a positive relationship, it’s not possible for positive things to happen,” he said. He has been a business owner for 17 years and has no problem managing and budgeting money, he added. And he thanked the Teamsters Union for endorsing him. “It’s a huge deal because people (county workers) are not staying in Becker County,” he said.

Asked what separates them from their opponent, Meyer said “A huge concern for the county is people (employees) leaving — they’re not happy being here. I can establish professional positive relationships with employees … that’s something I can do, and my opponent has not done so in the past 10 years.”

For his part, Grimsley pointed to his experience as a commissioner. “I was elected at (age) 25 and was interested in politics prior to that,” he said. “I haven’t seen my opponent at any county board meetings.”

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Becker County employees have eight collective bargaining units, “not just one,” he added. “I’m not sure they endorse, but if so it would be with one of those units,” he added. Also, commissioners are supposed to set overall policy, not get involved in day-to-day county operations. “That’s a contrast for you, too,” he added.

Asked about the biggest issue facing the county, Meyer said that “public safety is a huge issue in Becker County ... because Sheriff Todd Glander has done a great job of appreciating his people, they’re still there — they work hard for him.”

At least 60 employees have left Becker County since the first of the year, and that needs to stop, Meyer said. “It’s so hard to lose good people, we need to keep good people,” he said. That requires competitive pay and benefits and good management-employee relations, he said. “Until that (labor-management) disconnect is taken care of, it will be hard,” he added.

The work environment has changed because of the pandemic, Grimsley said. “People are working remotely or retiring, and that will continue,” he said. “So we need to create an environment that is better than other counties to keep Becker County great.”

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Asked if the county should be spending more money in any specific areas, Grimsley said no. “There is no area where the budget needs to be increased, if there was, we would do that,” he said. The sheriff’s office has two new officers and a $10 million total budget — higher than the $7 million county human services budget, which has held the line while the sheriff’s office budget has increased, Grimsley said.

“The sheriff’s office has been well-supported by the county board and you taxpayers,” he said.

The preliminary 5 to 5 ½% levy increase for next year “was created to pay for new contracts for employees,” he added. “The cost driver for the county is wage increases.”

For his part, Meyer said “I'm a big proponent of law enforcement — we need more deputies in Becker County. We are short-staffed. It’s bad.”

On a per-capita basis, the county should have as many as 34 deputies, not 24, to meet the statewide average, Meyer said. “It’s not something that can be solved overnight, but it needs to be addressed.”

The forum for Becker County Board and sheriff candidates was hosted by the Detroit Lakes Area League of Women Voters in a packed public meeting room at the police department.

Candidate forums for Detroit Lakes City Council and Detroit Lakes School Board candidates will be Wednesday in the police department meeting room. The city council forum starts at 6 p.m. and the school board forum starts at 7 p.m.

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