On Sept. 17, former Chanhassen mayor Denny Laufenburger held a county commissioner town hall with the candidates for districts 3 and 5.
All four candidates — Matt Udermann and Randy Maluchnik for District 3, and John Fahey and Mark Willems for District 5 — participated in the live-streamed event. Questions were submitted by Carver County residents prior to the town hall and chosen at random by the candidates. The event was held at the board chambers in the Carver County Government Center, but was not affiliated with any organizations.
The newspaper broke down some of the topics discussed. This is an abridged version — the full video can be found online.
On race and policing
District 5 candidate John Fahey: “The mission with the county and the sheriff is to serve everyone with respect and dignity and do this with honor, integrity and pride. It’s very important for all of us to treat everyone with respect. I personally don’t believe that there is a lot of racism within Carver County.”
Education, communication and enforcement are the key to improvement, and things like body cameras and training are helpful for officers and residents, he said.
District 5 Candidate Mark Willems: “I believe Carver County’s role is to ensure that every citizen, no matter their background, is treated equally. I don’t believe that there is systemic racism here in Carver County, because by that definition, that means every time somebody like me, or anybody gets out of bed in the morning, they think how they can hurt somebody. That is absolutely not the case.”
Willems said he believes body cameras are useful for everyone, but data storage and camera costs concern him. Conversations should be had about policing, but it needs to result in actual solutions, he said.
District 3 candidate Randy Maluchnik: “I remember protesting in the ‘70s and thinking this was all going to be over by now, but it seems like it’s worse than it was then ... I support the sheriff and the sheriff knows that the training in equity and treating people right and de-escalation needs to go on."
Body cameras should be instituted as soon as possible, and he supports additional training for officers, he said.
District 3 candidate Matt Udermann: “We tend to have a knee-jerk response when someone brings up a complaint. I think we could look at the word 'and.' We can say, ‘Yes, Jason Kamerud is doing a fantastic job, AND there might be some opportunities to improve.’”
This isn’t just a race issue, it’s a values issue, Udermann said. Human rights and dignity should be the topic at hand, and systemic racism does exist, he said. He also said he took the citizen’s sheriff academy course, which gave him an appreciation for what officers do.
Fahey: Taxes are high, but the quality of life is phenomenal, Fahey said. Talking to employees about budget cuts is a good place to start, and taking a hard look at capital improvement projects could result in cuts to save money. Many one-time projects like bridge replacements and body cameras could be adjusted or delayed.
Willems: Carver County residents pay a lot of taxes, but also have a lot of amenities, Willems said. He would talk to the county employees about eliminating waste and saving money, because they know their work the best and where the county can make cuts.
Maluchnik: Maluchnik recommended residents check their effective tax rates, which is a more logical way to look at how effective taxes are, he said. During his time as county commissioner, he eliminated many processes that they didn’t need to save money, he added. While planning next year’s budget, they’re replicating some of the ideas that worked well in 2008.
Udermann: Udermann said they need to shake the stigma of being the highest taxed county in the state because it dissuades new residents and businesses from moving to Carver County. He would cut commissioner salaries and their previous raises, evaluate devices that aren’t being used, and compare the county to nearby peers such as Scott County, which has fewer employees but similar amenities.
Fahey: Growth should be concentrated within the city because they have the infrastructure and can handle it, but the county should continue to preserve their unique agricultural heritage, Fahey said.
“We need to manage the change together, the development is coming. We have to collaborate with all of the cities and the county to have a vision for the future.”
Willems: Family farms need to be protected, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be any growth, he said. If farmers decide to sell their land, it should be their choice, not because the county is squeezing them out, he said.
“If you work together, the hard feelings go away, and that's what we need to do.”
Maluchnik: All development should be steered toward the city because they have the infrastructure. Maluchnik said he’s voted with farmers just about every time, and he doesn’t want the county to become a vast suburban wasteland.
“Carver County has been about farming, and I plan to keep it about farming.”
Udermann: Development is coming, but the county needs to plan the growth and work with the farmers that have been there for generations, Udermann said. Not enough people speak to the farmers before making these decisions, which is damaging important relationships.
“It’s not about money, it’s about their family farm having been here for years, their heritage.”