Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Friday, January 28, 2011


The wind energy conversion systems or wind turbines are becoming a common sight on the rural landscape. The benefits of these conversion systems are much debated. The plus is the additional revenue for the property owner. Naysayers talk about aesthetics of the rural landscape and problems with wild life etc.

A report out of Iowa indicates that they may be other benefits. During some research, which is not yet complete, the Ames Laboratory has found that the turbines produce measurable effects on the microclimate near the crops. "The slow-moving turbine blades channel air downwards in effect bathing the crops below via the increased airflow they create."

On cold nights, turbulence stirs the lower atmosphere and keeps nighttime temperatures around the crops warmer. This would offer an extreme benefit in the spring and fall because they would keep the crop a little warmer and help prevent frost. This technology would be beneficial here in the Midwest, but it would seem to be worth millions in the citrus areas of the south where frosts many times destroy crops. end.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Excerpts from Ledger Q and A

1. What is your job/role as a commissioner?

The job description for a county commissioner is that he/she is one of five chief executive officers of a county. Another way to explain it is that a county commissioner wears three different hats at various times. Example.

Executive Hat - this hat is worn when the commissioners develop and set budgets, negotiate contracts, hire and fire employees, etc.
Legislative Hat - this hat is worn when the commissioners develop and administer county ordinances i.e. zoning ordinance, solid waste ordinance etc.
Judicial Hat - this hat is worn when the county commissioners set as the drainage authority and are called upon to administer the drainage statutes when landowners request maintenance, repairs, or improvements to their ditches.

2. What have you taken away or learned from your experience as a commissioner?

Counties were created to be partners with the state. Counties do the work of the state (St. Paul) - but they do it in 87 different parts of the state. Unlike cities, counties are more closely aligned with state government in that over 65% of the work of the counties is mandated by the state. A county does what the state tells it to do -- many times without much help (funds) from the state. Property taxes are the main funding source for this work.

There are no easy answers to governmental issues. it is extremely hard for a citizen to have a thorough understanding of why local governments do what they do. Issues that should be black and white - seldom are. The devil is always in the details and almost all of the time, misunderstandings of county actions occur because of a lack of understanding of the intricate nature of mandates, laws, and procedures under which counties operate.

3. Sum up your experience as a commissioner.

Local government is sometimes difficult to understand. During my time as commissioner, the idea of educating the public about what local governments do came up time and time again. I did some investigation and found that no one had developed a curriculum to teach about local units of government. Since I have a background in education, I decided to develop a curriculum that dealt with local government: townships, school districts, cities, and counties. In 2006 I completed the curriculum and offered the class through St. Peter Community Education. Unfortunately only two people were interested enough to sign up for the class.

I have enjoyed serving the citizens of Nicollet County. I have looked on my 16 years as "earning another college degree". I ran for office to give back to the county and I truly feel I have received more than I have given back. END

Friday, January 07, 2011


People are funny. People are unique. People are hard to figure out. Why do we occasionally hear that people have no qualms about spending money on animals, but balk at the idea of helping out fellow human beings? Today's Free Press article about the stray dog contains a quote, "if its an issue of taxes, I'll pay more taxes so they won't keep doing this." (referencing the furlough of city employees who deal with strays).

This is not meant to be a criticism of the person quoted. He probably contributes funds and helps people in need as do a majority of our citizens. However, when programs that help the poorest of the poor are cut or furloughed, we rarely hear citizens say, "if its an issue of taxes, I'll pay more taxes so they won't keep doing this." end

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Reading the Constitution

I have read the Constitution several times. This morning some members of the U.S. Congress House of Representatives opened the first session of 2011 by taking turns reading the Constitution; section by section. Good for them! I hope they had an interested audience. My schedule did not allow me to listen or watch, however early this afternoon I did catch a "correction". Evidently when one of the members took his/her turn to read, he/she turned two pages together and as a result skipped a part. I believe it was part of Article 4.

It is very puzzling to me that these elected officials would think highly of reading this important document during a session of the House and would not realize at the time that a page had been skipped. Were not other members listening and wondering why there was a lapse of continuity? Were not other members following along on hard copies? Couldn't someone have sent the reader a text message alerting them to the error?Or could not have the following reader been alert enough to point out that two pages had been turned instead of one?

The attempt to draw attention to the Constitution was laudable, however this blatant error kind of took the thunder out of this attempt. end