Name: Fran Miron

Age: 66

Occupation:  Dairy & Crop Farmer

Previous political/community experience:

Washington County Commissioner – District 1:  Two Terms, Current Chair

Current Chair, Washington-Ramsey County Recycling & Energy Board

Current Chair, Lower St. Croix Water Policy Committee

Mayor & Councilman, City of Hugo:  20 years

Chair, Hugo Economic Development Authority:  12 years

Forest Lake Area Community Scholarship Foundation, Board Member

Lakes Center for Youth & Families, Board Member

Forest Lake Area Schools Agriculture Advisory Committee Member

 

What do you think the county’s biggest role is in addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic?

COVID-19 has created a significant challenge for everyone.  Prior to the pandemic, Washington County made significant investments in public safety and technology.  By making improvements in County technology infrastructure we were well positioned to meet the needs of a changing work model.  Residents and businesses can now access County resources they need remotely, and this technology will increase efficiency for years to come.  The County is in a strong fiscal position and was able to wave penalties on late payments of property taxes recognizing the economic impact of COVID-19 on families and businesses.  Because of solid financial reserves, and good planning, our proposed property tax levy for 2021 has no increase.  Federal CARES Act funds were allocated to provide $10 million in grants to local businesses.  Additionally, resources were made available to homeowners, families, and renters to ensure sustainable housing during the pandemic.  Funds were also utilized to prevent homelessness in the County.  As County Commissioner, I’m committed to assisting residents and businesses toward a full recovery.  Eight years ago, I promised my commitment for greater county engagement in economic development.  The County delivered on this commitment by creating the Community Development Authority and by hiring a Director of Economic Development, focusing on business retention and expansion.  This business support policy has proven critical throughout COVID-19 as we’ve worked with business associations and the Forest Lake Chamber of Commerce.  

The unrest in the Twin Cities following the death of George Floyd while in police custody has had an impact around the world. Talk about your feelings on the issue and how can the county government assist in improving relations with diverse communities?

County actions on diversity, equity and inclusion were happening at the county level long before the death of George Floyd.  Since that time, however, our county efforts have increased.  There are several anti-racism or diversity workgroups within county departments.  These are mostly staff led and focus on internal efforts related to equity and inclusion, as well as external issues.  Many of these groups have been active for more than ten years.  An annual Black History Month event has been held in Washington County and has had fabulous attendance.  The workgroups have created countywide initiatives and work plans, including annual trainings to all staff on diversity and inclusion.  The County recently hired an equity & training manager to support activities around diversity, equity, and inclusion.  We have also changed our county recruiting to increase the number of diverse candidates for job openings.  Our county workforce goal is to reflect the diversity of our county in our employees.  I am committed to providing the Sheriff’s Department with the financial resources necessary to keep our communities safe.  A countywide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Steering Committee has been created and we plan to review a number of budget items to identify where fees and other costs have a disparate impact on people of color.  Department level workgroups will review service delivery to determine areas to reduce inequities and disparate impacts.  Personally, I have participated in the “Everyone Belongs” sessions and am registered for upcoming equity sessions.  I’m looking forward to continuing conversations with residents.

 

What are other issues facing the county in the next few years and how would you deal with it?

County government should promote the health, safety and quality of life of citizens by providing accessible, high quality services in a timely and respectful manner.  We maintain trust through responsible use of public resources, accountability, and openness of government.  I will continue to create comprehensive strategies to retain & expand businesses.  As current chair of the Recycling & Energy Board, and as chair of the Lower St. Croix Water Policy Committee, I’m passionate about the responsible management of our resources.  Maintaining sustainable fiscal policies has earned Washington County the highest bond rating possible.   As County Commissioner, I am committed to these philosophies as we work toward creating prosperity.  I am fortunate to have developed good working relationships with the communities I serve, the other county board members, and staff.  I will seize every opportunity to address issues in a collaborative way as I take direction from the people of northern Washington County.  

 

Andrew J. Tjernlund

Age: 35

Occupation: Owner, Operator Tjernlund Products

Previous political/community experience:

Planning Commissioner, City of Hugo

Planning Commissioner, Washington County

Active with over a dozen local charities including Food Shelves, Animal Shelters, Educational Foundations and Women’s Empowerment Programs

What do you think the county’s biggest role is in addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The county’s biggest role is to adopt a mindset of preparedness and forward-thinking solutions in order to allow our county to flourish. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is revealing holes in the board’s budget. At the same time citizens most need county services, it appears there could be a major shortfall that will lead to tax increases. COVID-19 may have been unpredictable, but financial and health crises emerge every few years. I will make sure the board prepares for difficult times by reining in wasteful spending, and instead using those funds to support police, fire, and health and human services departments.

The unrest in the Twin Cities following the death of George Floyd while in police custody has had an impact around the world. Talk about your feelings on the issue and how can the county government assist in improving relations with diverse communities?

George Floyd’s death was horrendous and certainly the Washington County Sheriff’s department would agree. We have an excellent Sheriff’s department that should not be tarnished by that tragedy. As County Commissioner I will encourage strength, empathy and community by supporting the things that bring us together. Our parks and libraries provide us places to interact and provide a shared sense of belonging to this area. By providing great areas to come together we will build a more united community.

What are other issues facing the county in the next few years and how would you deal with it?

Balancing our growth while maintaining the character that makes Forest Lake and Scandia special requires new leadership that represents the future of Northern Washington County. Our cities are some of the fastest changing areas in the entire state. We deserve a stronger voice representing us not only within the county, but also in St. Paul and with the Met Council. I bring energetic and forward-looking leadership to allow this area to flourish while still maintaining our hometown values. 

 

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