Challenger Paul Koering won 13 of 16 precincts and tied for another in a defeating incumbent Crow Wing County District 1 Commissioner Phil Trusty.
“I’m really excited it’s a whole new adventure,” Koering said. “I just want to say thank you to commissioner Trusty. He did a fine job and he’s a good guy. He called me this morning and congratulated me. He’s a fine gentleman.”
A little sleep deprived by Wednesday, Koering was making plans to serve the district. The 47-year-old St. Mathias resident gained 56.15 percent of the vote compared to Trusty’s 37.03 percent, beating the one-term incumbent by 1,175 votes.
Koering had 3,451 votes to Trusty’s 2,276.
Trusty, 44, from Fort Ripley, carried his home city and township. Trusty previously served as a Fort Ripley Township supervisor for 14 years. Koering and Trusty tied for the tiny portion of Brainerd Ward 3 Precinct 3 as each man gained one vote there.
Wednesday afternoon, Trusty said he was still a little surprised at the results but understood Koering has a well-known name in the district.
“I think he’ll do a decent job as county commissioner,” Trusty said. “I wish Paul good luck.”
Trusty said he was a little disappointed with the vote totals given all the board has accomplished in the past four years.
“We really worked hard on customer service,” he said, adding for the past four years, the board worked for zero-percent levy increases during difficult economic times while still providing needed services.
Trusty said the turning point may have been the subject of all-terrain vehicles (ATV) and a trail in the southern part of the county known as the Fort Ripley, Brainerd, Pine Center grant-in-aid trail. Trusty said he didn’t support the trail in the southern part of the county but he voted for an overall recreational trails plan, which included pursuit of that ATV trail.
“I think a lot of (residents) thought I voted for it instead of a study to see if it could be done,” Trusty said.
While he didn’t rule out future elected office, Trusty said he planned to focus his energies for the foreseeable future on his family and operating his new business of the Crow Wing Lake Campground south of Brainerd.
“I was honored to serve them,” Trusty said of district residents. “I want to thank everybody for their support.”
Koering served in the Minnesota Senate from 2003 to 2011. He owns the Baxter Liquor Mart on Highway 371 and Koering Livery Service, which provides transportation services to area funeral homes. Koering said he didn’t get much sleep waiting for election results or after the poll numbers were final. He spent part of the night at the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse with other candidates and supporters as they watched early returns.
Trusty and Koering were the top vote-getters in a primary for the seat. Challenger Monty Jensen, Crow Wing Township, continued a write-in campaign after losing in the primary in his first bid for office. Marv Begin, longtime political activist from Fort Ripley Township, also had a write-in campaign. There were 419 write-in votes, the most — with 138 — coming from Crow Wing Township Precinct 1. The county will not have the breakdown of write-in votes until Thursday.
Koering said one of the issues that may have resonated with voters was his position on proposed construction of a new Law Enforcement Center (LEC). Discussions for a new or remodeled LEC carried a price tag of $7 million to more than $18 million.
“I said that if I’m elected I am a no vote on the LEC,” Koering said, adding the county is $45 million in debt from its previous campus building projects. “I personally think we need to get that debt retired before we do anything else.”
With the current economy, Koering said the county doesn’t need to spend that money right now.
As for the race results, Koering said he hoped he was elected because people remember how he tried his best to serve them when he was in the Minnesota Senate as a measure of how he’ll work to serve them while on the county board.
Koering said: “I’m going to strive really hard to represent the people of District 1.”