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Candidate Q&A: Washington County Board District 2

Ahead of the Aug. 14 primary, RiverTown Multimedia spoke by phone with each of the three candidates running for the Washington County Board of Commissioners District 2 seat.

Joe Delaney and Julie Ohs are challenging incumbent Stan Karwoski for the seat, which covers portions of Woodbury, White Bear Lake and Mahtomedi, as well as the entireties of Oakdale, Landfall, Pine Springs, Birchwood and Willernie. Answers have been lightly edited for length.

Joe Delaney

Joe DelaneyDelaney, who lives in Oakdale, has about 40 years of teaching experience, including two years in the Peace Corps and 33 years with Minneapolis Public Schools, with the majority of his time at South High School. He also was the developer for Pines of White Bear in White Bear Lake. He continues to substitute teach at public high schools.

What qualifies you to hold this position?

I have a lot of life experience, and as both an educator, (and) as a physicist, I'm good at analyzing problems. I have acquired some confidence in a number of languages to help people have access to our political system, our social needs and so on. I'm a dual citizen of the United States and Ireland ... I developed Pines of White Bear, a 34-lot development in 2002 in the city of White Bear Lake. And that was very successful, there are beautiful homes in that. You don't see for sale signs, they like to stay there. And I was a fair and generous developer with the people I hired to do that. ... I'm retired from teaching but I'm still very active. I teach in Johnson High, Harding High, North (High School) in St Paul and Tartan. And the kids put up with me and welcome me. I'm the kind of person that's there on time and show up, I'm ready to do more than what I'm asked for. ... At any rate, I'm open to be whatever the job demands of me.

What would be your top priorities if elected?

First of all, I'd have to get immersed in the job before I name a top priority. I know in the past it has been jobs, and I know that one of the things about jobs is that ... I want them to be well-paying jobs. That would be a top priority. There were issues with transportation. I don't want to make that a top priority until I see just what the latest problems are in this regard. Also, our parks and ... just how well we're doing in that ... I read a lot of good things but I'm not sure that everything's is as good as it should be. My wife's former homestead, she's a Schiltgen and one of the Schiltgen farms is part of the Lake Elmo Park Reserve. We're always proud to go there and see just what her family contributed. ... I am a good communicator. I am very accessible. I will be open to people and reflect on their needs. I will be pragmatic. I will respond to needs and not just come in with what my ideas are.

What issues do you think need more attention in Washington County?

I think some of the businesses are a little overtaxed. Some of the small retailers, I think they are a little overtaxed.

I know one of the things commissioners do is pass ordinances that people like me who do development have to follow. I think some of those need improvement ... We want (Washington County) to be beautiful, open to good development. Some developers are discouraged from some very good projects. That limits affordable housing. Affordable housing is another concern.

What strengths or expertise do you think you can add to the Board?

I think one of my unique characteristics is communication. And communicating with our new immigrants. And that I speak a number of languages ... In my own profession of teaching, it's not common to use the secondary languages during class, which I do everyday. And I enjoy that. And one of the reasons I am going into this, too, is to keep alive the honor of my father's name. He was a county commissioner in Ramsey County. He was a Mayor of St. Paul a couple of times. (...)

What skills or traits are important for a county commissioner to possess?

To be a good listener, and a hard worker, to fight for the things that you believe in. and, one who can see problems and see solutions. And as, as a physicist, that's what we do. We analyze and solve.

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Julie Ohs

Julie OhsOhs lives in Woodbury and is serving her third term on the City Council, and has also held positions on the Board of Directors for Listening House, the Woodbury Economic Development Commission and the Woodbury Business Development Committee. She also has served on committees and work groups for the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.

What qualifies you to hold this position?

I'm on my third term on the Woodbury City Council, so that's 12 years. I've also been 12 years on the South Washington County Telecommunications Commission, volunteered for community events like Habitat for Humanity (and) Feed My Starving Children. I've also served on the Woodbury Economic Development Commission and the Business Development Committee. Current chair of the Woodbury Yellow Ribbon Network. And just, I know I do a good job.

What would be your top priorities if elected?

I list on my campaign cards five priorities. The first is the providing high quality core services in an efficient and affordable manner. To support and promote regional transportation planning for the East Metro, including the Gold Line. Support local control. Local elected officials know the needs and concerns of their constituents, because they live, work, play and worship in the same communities. And then, protect and preserve groundwater, and maintain and improve surface water quality. And last one is the opioid crisis. That's a huge challenge right now. And a very expensive challenge.

What issues do you think need more attention in Washington County?

The opioid crisis. I think that's the biggest challenge right now. We need some diversion programs. Locking people up is not always the answer and it stretches the resources. And it adds to the caseloads of the mental health people ... The state mandates that the county offers these mental health services, so with increased caseloads, that takes money away from other things like parks and libraries ... Eighty percent of the county budget involves state mandates.

What strengths or expertise do you think you can add to the Board?

I think the Board does a great job. I think with my involvement with the (Woodbury City) Council, I've worked on regional projects, I've been involved with the Gold Line from the beginning ... Another regional project I was involved in was the HERO center, which will be located in Cottage Grove and will ultimately serve the entire county. We got a bonding form the state for that. I think I'd bring fresh perspective and new ideas. I think i would represent all the districts fairly. District 2 is very unique with the eight communities ... They're all very unique and quirky and I would respect that. They don't need someone coming in telling them what to do or what they need. I'd listen.

What skills or traits are important for a county commissioner to possess?

Micro and macro views depending on what's required. The ability to see the big picture as well as the small. Respect. I think the board has that now. Politics is getting uglier and uglier and there's no reason for it. Listening before speaking and listening more than you spend time speaking. Respecting others' viewpoints, attending all the meetings and various community events and committee things that you are assigned to. And consensus building.

Stan Karwoski

Stan KarwoskiKarwoski, who lives in Oakdale, has served on the Washington County Board since winning the 2016 special election following Commissioner Ted Bearth's death. Prior to that, he was the mayor of Oakdale from 2015-2016, and served on the Oakdale City Council from 2001-2014. He says some of his accomplishments on the board include expanding early voting, increasing library hours and leading transportation initiatives.

What qualifies you to hold this position?

I think the biggest one is I've been serving the last two years of the term I filled in an open election. I was the winner out of six candidates and I came in with about 14 years of mayor and council experience combined from Oakdale. And what qualifies me is I've been serving effectively as the county commissioner with a lot of confidence from the other commissioners in other countries and the commissioners in Washington County. ...

What would be your top priorities going forward if re-elected?

Top priorities are maintaining that disciplined budget and that AAA credit rating, which is about as high as you can get. We've got to protect that ...

Next would be cleaning up the water and also planning for long-term water resources. That's key. We can't take for granted that we are going to have an abundance of water into the future, and I think if we start planning and executing techniques we can assure that we have clean and plentiful water ...

Number three would be the transportation. I'm planning to work very hard to get a new interchange at 694-494-94 .... It's going to take a lot of work, but we need a new modern-day, we call it a flyover interchange...

The fourth thing would be transit. We need to add transit, with the Gold Line ... I've been out to Washington D.C., nurturing relationships with ... the federal legislative body, because in about a year and a half we're going to need a matching fund from the federal. Right now, I'm a chair on the Gold Line Partners (also known as Gateway Corridor Commission) and I've been involved with this project since being on the (Oakdale) City Council, since being Oakdale mayor, and now I've been assigned it to lead it for our county. We need transit because the top businesses won't come to your county unless you have transit. ...

What issues do you think need more attention in Washington County?

The one issue that our county board is giving a lot of attention to - but the public is not as aware - is the unfunded mandates. Half of our budget is doing social service programs that are very, they take care of our seniors, families in need, all those social issues in our society are handled by our county. And they're mandated by the state. ... The programs are underfunded by the state. They're coming up short, that's putting a lot of pressure on us, we've been able to prevent putting that burden on to the property tax owners.

I would say essentially our county board is really on top of things. There isn't really anything we're overlooking, i did want to bring attention to the underfunded mandates to the people's attention. And really, as far as more attention to, and what we're trending towards, is my priorities. So, these are four major things, my priorities, that really need continued, ramped up attention. And that's the trend we're going in. they need more attention and we will be applying more attention. And i think the public ... will appreciate that we are moving on these priorities.

What issues do you think need more attention in Washington County?

The one issue that our county board is giving a lot of attention to - but the public is not as aware - is the unfunded mandates. Half of our budget is doing (state-mandated) social service programs. ... The programs are underfunded by the state. They're coming up short. That's putting a lot of pressure on us. We've been able to prevent putting that burden on to the property tax owners.

I would say essentially our county board is really on top of things. There isn't really anything we're overlooking. I did want to bring attention to the underfunded mandates ... And really, as far as more attention to, and what (the Board is) trending towards, (are) my priorities. So, these are four major things that really need continued, ramped up attention. And that's the trend we're going in. ...

What strengths or expertise do you think you bring to the Board?

I really have experience in water, tackling the 3M water problem. We started at least 10 years ago working with 3M positively and proactively to clean up our water in Oakdale. So that ... know-how on how to get that done, I can bring to the rest of the county ... The other strength I bring, is my elected mayor experience, both (Oakdale) City Council and mayor experience. District 2 represents eight cities and I've been able to really go to all the cities' council meetings and work on collaborative projects ... knowing what a mayor is going through, knowing what a city council is going through. ...

What skills or traits are important for a county commissioner to possess?

Listening. Active listening to your constituents, critical thinking and looking at the issue from all perspectives. And another one that I think is a trait that is really important is to seek out the opinions of the quiet population. ... You have to go out of your way when you're elected to seek out, for example, senior opinions. Seniors don't have the ability to drive everywhere and have a voice. And I feel that a trait I have is the respect of seniors to really go out and actively learn what they want and what they need and treat them with the respect they deserve. You have to work on that. And so I've done that in my Oakdale days and I really enjoy and take a lot of pride in working with seniors and meeting senior needs ...

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