The Gazette asked the same set of questions to both candidates running for County Commissioner District 3. Scott (Cutter) Junker did not submit his responses by the Gazette’s deadline. Here are current county commissioner Gary Kriesel’s responses.
Occupation: Incumbent Washington County Commissioner
Previous Political/Community Experience: Two years on Stillwater City Council, 16 years on the Washington County Board, currently serving on more than a dozen committees/boards including, Audit Advisory Committee, Planning Advisory Committee, and Washington/Ramsey Recycling and Energy Board.
What do you think the county’s biggest role is in addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic?
The county’s primary responsibility is to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. We must continue to address the devastating economic impact of the COVID pandemic on local businesses that were forced to close and on residents who are financially struggling.
The Washington County Board has allocated nearly $15 million - about half of the funds received from the federal CARES grant - for direct assistance to county businesses and residents impacted by COVID. 189 businesses in District 3 applied for grants, along with 125 residents who applied for rent/mortgage assistance.
I am committed to providing immediate financial relief by reducing property taxes, while still providing quality core and essential services that meet our residents’ needs.
I voted to set a maximum 0% increase in the county’s 2021 tax levy which translates into a 5.6% decrease in our tax rate (5th consecutive year our tax rate has decreased).
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?
Washington County continues to work on building trust and collaboration to all we serve. The Sheriff’s Department and the County Attorney’s office have established great relationships through community policing. I am confident that our Sheriff’s Office will continue to bring unity and inclusivity to our communities.
In addition, the county government can continue to improve relations with diverse communities by ensuring we have a workforce that is reflective of the diversity of our residents and customers by fostering an inclusive environment so that diverse employees are welcomed, can succeed, and are promoted into leadership positions within the county.
What are other issues facing the county in the next few years and how would you deal with it?
The pandemic has greatly impacted our communities and we’ll be feeling the effects for months to come.
The county will continue supporting our businesses and residents through our community development agency which administers the business CARES grants as well as other county provided supportive services.
I am committed to protecting and improving water quality resources and expanding recycling opportunities to reduce reliance on landfills.
I will continue looking for opportunities to protect our precious drinking water, critical habitat and preservation of open space through our voter approved Land and Water Legacy Program.
It is important to keep our roads in good repair and safe for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians through planned improvements and disciplined fiscal management. The Highway 36 and Manning Avenue interchange project will start construction in 2021 and upon completion in 2023 will greatly improve public safety and traffic efficiency.