Address: 18862 Concord St NW, Elk River, MN
Family: Andrew has been married to his wife Gay Bunch-Hulse for 27 years. They have raised two daughters in Elk River; Bridgette (25) and Savannah (18).
•Bachelors of Science in Robotic Engineering, Purdue University
•Masters of Science in Engineering Systems Management, St Mary’s University – San Antonio
•Graduate Certificate in Organization Change and Quality Improvement, Hawaii Pacific University
•Former Naval Flight Officer, former Aerospace and Technology Executive, Current Small Business Owner.
Previous experience in elected office: This is my first run for public office, although I have extensive experience working with elected officials at the State and Federal level.
Previous civic and community involvement:
I have twice served as President of the Lake Orono Improvement Association and for nearly the last 8 years I have served as the Chair of the BPOU Senate District 30 Republicans.
1. What do you hope to accomplish if elected to the Sherburne County Board?
I have three primary goals if elected to the board:
1. Sherburne County has gone from one of the lower property tax counties to one of the highest. Today Sherburne County’s total effective property tax is in the upper 72% of all Minnesota Counties. We must cut not just the tax rate, but the dollars homeowners pay each year and instill budget discipline at the county level.
2. We need to protect individual freedoms and make Sherburne County a Second Amendment Defender.
3. We need to stop Government overreach and get small business opened back up so they can survive.
2. COVID-19 has changed the way people do business in Minnesota. What has the pandemic taught you about yourself and people? What will be the opportunities and challenges going forward for county commissioners?
Government fails when it pushes top-down solutions, even when the intentions are good. Businesses should have been allowed to develop plans on how to safely reopen. For example, in my industry, we have infectious disease specialists that work across the country. When COVID hit, the industry called on those specialists to put together re-opening plans to allow us to re-open safely. The Governor and his staff tossed out those plans and re-wrote them on their own without any input from the industry and without any industry knowledge. The result was less safe, poorly conceived and most procedures didn’t even apply.
3. What can be done to help businesses and the economy recover from the pandemic? How about residents and nonprofits?
First off, I don’t like referring to it as “the economy” like it’s some faceless stock certificate on the trading room floor. These are small businesses, mom and pop shops – they are people’s livelihoods that they have poured their heart and soul into. They are going to do everything they can to keep themselves, their families, their employees and their customers safe. But the ultimate answer is we have to let them open back up. That’s the only way to help ensure survivability, not to mention begin to ease the mental health crisis the lockdowns have brought on.
4. What previous decisions of the Sherburne County Board have you liked and disliked and why?
I have not been pleased with the fiscal responsibility and budget discipline of this board. In the first two years of this four year term, this board increased county taxes more than the previous 8 years combined. Further, they have continued to increase county property tax at that same rate, all while median household income has remained flat in the county. This is not sustainable and will only serve to drive residents and investment out of the county. We must cut the amount that homeowners pay in property taxes and instill budget discipline.
5. Sherburne County commissioner meetings are now livestreamed for the public. What are your thoughts on that? What will you do to regularly connect with constituents and field their thoughts and concerns?
I think live streaming the commissioner meetings is an excellent idea, but it takes a lot more than just that to connect with the community. For me, an online presence is one venue, and it is a good way to get information out to a large audience, but it is very impersonal. While I would have an online presence, I would also setup a weekly time at one of the local establishments to sit and have a cup of coffee and talk with anyone from the community. We spend too much time online and not enough connecting face to face.
6. What should be done at the county level to attract and retain new employees as the workforce loses its most seasoned employees to retirement? Speak to the issues of salaries and benefits that are negotiated as well as workplace morale that can be impacted by many non-negotiable factors.
While we do need to have competitive salary and benefits to attract talent, that is not the main issue for retention. Between 79%-82% of employees leave their job because they don’t feel appreciated by their direct supervisor. So one of the biggest issues we need to tackle is to ensure we have high quality individuals in management positions that can nurture and grow the individuals in their teams and provide them with challenging and rewarding assignments. Further, the workplace is changing, we need to have more flexibility in how work gets done to allow for more work-life balance.
7. What ideas do you have and/or current initiatives do you want to press on with to make county government more efficient and more effective?
Personnel represent a little over 50% of the county’s budget. One of the things we have to do as employees retire, is to scrutinize each position and make a positive decision as to whether it needs to be backfilled or not, rather than just automatically filling the role. We also need to make use of technology when we can to be more efficient with travel and expenses. Finally we need to put a robust rating system in place to rank projects. Not all projects are of equal importance and they should not be treated that way.
8. What should be the role of Sherburne County to spur economic development in its cities and townships? Does that look different in a post-COVID-19 era?
Sherburne County should be very active in helping to spur economic development. I believe over the next several years we are going to see more decentralization of business from downtown areas to suburban counties. If we do this right, economic development can help further reduce the tax burden on homeowners while making Sherburne County an attractive destination for businesses. That type of development then further helps small businesses such as restaurants, etc…, which then attracts more residents. This kind of activity could accelerate the recovery from the damage caused by COVID and the shutdowns.
9. Many of the challenges facing the Sherburne County Board of Commissioners have a direct tie to decisions made in offices outside of the county, at the state capitol and in Washington D.C. What, if anything, should be done differently to help chart Sherburne County’s course?
The key is communication. It is vital that even at the county level, we have a voice at the local, state, and national level. What I have seen over the course of my career is that if you are not at the table, your voice is not heard. That is an area where I have unique experience. I have very strong ties at the state and national level and have worked at those levels and understand those challenges.
10. Why should people elect you?
I am “what you see is what you get”. I’ve said all along that I’m not going to change who I am to try and garner votes. Of my professional accomplishments, I am most proud of being a Naval Officer. As an officer, if you don’t have integrity, you don’t have anything. I’m going to put out there what I believe and what I want to do. If folks agree, then I’d ask them to vote for me, if they don’t, then that’s fine as well. I’m a budget hawk, and I expect results.
11. What has been your biggest accomplishment in public life?
While not directly in public life, this does have to do with public policy. Around 2009 the Constellation Space program had been cancelled, the shuttle was being retired, and we had no clear path for a replacement. One of the programs from the Constellation program was called Orion, it was a crew vehicle to replace the shuttle. I had the opportunity to work with industry leaders, NASA, and members of Congress to re-forge Orion into America’s next generation spacecraft. It was one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever worked on.
12. What would you like to be able to say about Sherburne County in five to 10 years that can’t be said now?
I would like to be able to say that Sherburne County is a sought-after destination for business and residents; not just because of our low property taxes, but because of how efficient Sherburne County is with the dollars it does spend. That it is a model to show other counties that you can have low taxes, but still provide the goods and services that make it a great community to live in as long as you are disciplined and efficient.