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Voter's guide: Dakota County Commissioner

We asked both candidates the same questions and gave them each 1,000 words to answer. They got to use those words however they thought was best.

The questions are:

1. Dakota County residents consider transportation issues - moving people more efficiently from one stop to the next, ongoing maintenance on existing roads - a major concern. With the always- present budget constraints, how should county officials face this issue/need?

2. How can Dakota County continue to ensure it is a "premier place in which to live," while still adhering to its low tax rate?

3. What are the other major issues/challenges facing Dakota County in the next four years? How should they be addressed?

4. Why should people vote for you?

5. Other comments

Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

Paul Deslauriers

How should the county address transportation?

The Transportation issue is the number 1 concern that I have . The County continues to grow .This will continue to place an ever growing burden on our roadways and our infrastructure. I believe we need to continue the work expanding the Cedar Ave Corridor and the 35W Corridor. Federal Funding has come in place to begin this process. I believe in adding additional car pool lanes and even allow commuters to pay for a toll passage as they currently do on 394. These upgrades along with increasing our bus services especially to the Rosemount area will all come together in reducing the commute that we all face on a daily basis. I would like to see us improve certain heavily travelled roadways as well. With the tax levy set at 3.9 percent funds for many projects may not be available. Here is were I need to go to work and find creative ways to fund these important road projects. I could work to reinstate federal and state aid .I would look at reducing government waste in all areas to save needed resources for our roads. After working in Dakota County for 30 years I have several ideas on how we can save money so we can continue to provide the services and good roadways that all county residence have enjoyed for so many years.

How do you balance taxes and quality of life?

Dakota County will always be a Premier Place to live and work. There is a rich history here in the county that involves giving its residents some of the best Essential and Non Essential Services. We have very good Social services as we respond to the needs of every county resident. Our Parks and Libraries are some of the best in the state. Now the challenge begins to keep our taxes the lowest in the state as we manage all these services we are providing. I believe that it takes a lot of short and long range planning. As the economic picture changes we need to constantly reevaluate and prioritize how to spend allocated funds . We need to search for all outside grants or aid that might be available

to us. I would communicate closely with Commissioners in other counties to get creative ideas on how to deal with the current economic situation.

What's a major issue for the county?

The other major issues facing the county in the next 4 years will be the overall budget. The county has seen both State and Federal Aid cut over the last few years and these cuts we need to work hard on to get reinstated. There are projects that need to be completed that cannot be funded at the present time, therefore we will constantly need to prioritize what need to be done and when. The county has raised service fees on many items which will help to raise needed funds. It looks like we may be entering a phase in these current economic times where we would be satisfied to hold the line on all services as they are now. We all hope for the economy to take a turn but until it does I will work hard to maintain the services we now provide and to improve on them whenever we can afford to.

Why should people support you?

I would like your vote on Nov.4 because I believe that every person should have a say in what goes on in local government. I would like to spend time educating everyone about what a county commissioner really does and how it will impact everyone. I left police work with mixed emotions. I truly love working with people. It was a special time when I could truly help someone who was really in need. I have never run for public office before but I strongly believe we need more people in office that are willing to work hard for everyone they represent. I have a very positive attitude and good common sense. I believe in reducing government whenever possible . I believe in this current economic crisis that the use of eminent domain should be minimized or even eliminated. As your County commissioner I would welcome your phone calls or E Mails on any subject at any time.

Will Branning

How should the county address transportation?

I have for the last twenty-five years strived to make transit available to Dakota County. I believe the transit money we have paid to Federal and State taxes need to be equitable. A portion of the taxes already paid needs to be returned to Dakota County and I will strive diligently to make that happen. The Robert Street Corridor finalized study calls for a multi-modal design from the Union Station in St. Paul to UMORE park in Rosemount. Through my involvement express bus service has just been initiated to Rosemount to Minneapolis.

Regarding highway construction and maintenance, Dakota County maintains a five-year revolving highway construction and maintenance capitol improvement program. Annually the County Board assesses the next year's preplanned budgets/allocations and prioritized projects for construction/maintenance. Accordingly, some projects may require schedule extensions and/or a reprioritization within the next five-year plan. This exhaustive planning process enables Dakota County to maintain a coordinated-construction-county-transportation system by being on top of problems and ahead of need.

How do you balance taxes and quality of life?

The Dakota County Board of Commissioners has in the past had the lowest county tax levy in the region, if not in the entire state. I will continue to strive for the lowest tax levy in the region. This is accomplished though prudent fiscal planning and budgeting so as not to encumber our future departmental programs and elected officials with items and programs that are not sustainable within the budget cycles. Dakota County has already been named by CNN Money Magazine as "one of the best 25 places in our nation for a long life".

What's a major issue for the county?

Major issues and challenges facing Dakota County are the ability to provide as well as continue the many services we have all come to accept and enjoy as givens. Throughout my many years in elected public offices I have always advocated for programs for seniors, youth, child care; workforce and supportive housing; workforce training and development; youth programs; programs for our aging population; and programs for our immigrant population. These programs will continue to need to be addressed for the next four years and well into the future. They will require creative leadership and concern in order to be sustained and grow. I have proven my leadership in support of these programs over the past five decades  

Why should people support you?

Government must be led by officials who listen to their constituents to make things happen and do things right for the immediate need, and yet have lasting rewards. I have demonstrated this belief through my 36 years of public service and my 37 years of employment in industry. I believe I am the best person to represent Dakota County District #7.