New faces in new places on 2013 County Board

New commissioners Miron, Bearth sworn in; Weik, Lehrke to lead group

Gazette Photo by Erik Sandin Tenth Judicial District Judge Tad Jude left, shakes hands with Commissioner Gary Kriesel after swearing in Kriesel for another term on the board.

Gazette Photo by Erik Sandin
Tenth Judicial District Judge Tad Jude left, shakes hands with Commissioner Gary Kriesel after swearing in Kriesel for another term on the board.

And the women shall lead them.

For possibly the first time in Washington County history, two women will lead the Board of Commissioners.

District 5 Commissioner Lisa Weik was elected board chairman and District 4 Commissioner Autumn Lehrke was elected vice-chairman at the board’s first meeting of the year Tuesday.

The meeting started with Weik, District 3 Commissioner Gary Kriesel, District 1 Commissioner Fran Miron and District 2 Commissioner Ted Bearth taking their oaths of office from 10th Judicial District Judges Gary Schurrer and Tad Jude.

Once the new County Board was seated, commissioners quickly elected Weik and Lehrke to their board leadership posts. Commissioners also set the board’s 2013 meeting dates and approved their committee assignments for the year.

With Miron and Bearth joining the board, it marks the first time since 1993 that two new members joined the commission, according to Weik.

Miron, the former Hugo mayor, and Bearth, a former Oakdale city councilman, both feel their experience as municipal elected officials will help them on the County Board.

“Absolutely. Just to understand how things work,” Bearth said.

“There’s no question (it helps),” Miron added. “Just understanding the protocol of meetings and how business is conducted.”

Bearth said one goal as commissioner is to ensure the county continues its philosophy of low taxes and efficient government service.

“Maintain would be a better word. The county is doing well,” he said.

Miron wants the county to be more involved in economic development,

“One of the things I focused on in the election is having the county focus on economic development,” he said. “The communities in Washington County are poised to accept economic development.”

Weik agreed that economic development was an issue in last fall’s three contested commissioner races.

They (challengers) all ran on the county is not doing enough on economic development,” she said.

But Weik adds that what cities want from the county in economic development terms could lead to tough decisions for commissioners.

“What do the cities want from the county? They want tax abatements,” she said. “They don’t want staff support. They want tax abatements.”

Weik said if the county grants tax abatements, that lost revenue must be made up either through an increased levy or service cuts.

However, Weik said she wants to hear economic development ideas from all commissioners.

“I’m open to hearing their ideas,” she said.

For their part, Miron and Bearth both feel the new board will work together on economic development and other issues before it this year.

“Myself and Fran will work well together,” Bearth said. “Even when we disagree, we’ll be able to work together. It’s fine to have different opinions.”

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