Candidates Face Off at Scott County Commissioners Forum in Shakopee
District 3 candidates Dave Menden and Debbie Barber participated along with six others to discuss such topics as County Administrator Gary Shelton, transportation, and quality of life.
“Bigger is not better,” said Dave Menden at the Scott County Commissioners forum on Tuesday.
He was responding to the question about ways to improve the quality of life in Scott County. Menden said that rather than see more people in Shakopee, he preferred the county focus on improving health in the community and on dealing with the meth and heroin drug use problem.
At the forum, candidates for Scott County Commissioner had the opportunity to present their views and set themselves apart from the other candidates.
The other participating candidates were: Jerry Kucera and Joe Wagner (incumbent) for District 1; Brent Lawrence and Tom Wolf (incumbent) for District 2; Barbara Marschall for District 4; and Jon Ulrich for District 5.
In response to the quality of life question, candidates commonly mentioned public safety, health, and parks. Wolf added that taxes were too high and roads need improvement. Kucera noted that attracting businesses to the county would add jobs and result in a better quality of life.
Rob O’Neil, pastor of Brookwood Community Church, moderated the forum. Another question he presented to the candidates asked them about the relationship dynamics of the county board.
Barber cited her business experience as making her especially suited for promoting collaboration and positive interactions among commissioners.
Lawrence argued that the open forum at county board meetings should return. People have a right to question elected officials, he said.
Wolf disagreed, stating that the meetings are for county business and not for endorsing candidates. His statements relate back to July when Wolf, Menden, and Wagner voted to end public comment about political candidates.The vote occurred after a resident attempted to read a letter about the commissioners who were running for re-election.
Wolf continued, saying, “The workings of the board, I think, are fine.”
The forum became especially heated during statements about the incumbent candidates’ actions surrounding the allegations a former employee made against County Administrator Gary Shelton.
Menden and Wagner maintained that Shelton violated policies while Wolf had little to add on the matter.
Ulrich said that he was proud that he fought for Shelton. He emphasized that the claims made against Shelton were found to be unsubstantiated.
Marschall said she wondered why Shelton should be replaced. He has done a great job, she said.
“It never should have happened,” she added.
Candidates agreed that Scott County needs to attract more businesses and jobs. They disagreed on some of the ways to reduce traffic congestion. While they supported the construction of a new Highway 101 bridge over the Minnesota River, they had different ideas on future projects. Some suggestions put forth were to focus on buses, bus shoulders, and light rail.
Other questions asked candidates about meth and heroin use in Scott County, frac sand mining, the county’s relationship with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, taxes, regional transportation funds, and wind power.
The forum will be re-broadcast on public access channels. It will also be available online.
Candidates running for the state legislature will be at the next forum on Oct. 23.