Paul Koering, Crow Wing Commissioner-elect, expects a large learning curve as he takes office in January. A veteran of the state Senate, Koering said he’s learned the county deals with many issues he wasn’t aware of before he started attending meetings.
One of the surprises, Koering said, has been the scope of issues before the board for consideration, including the fight against invasive aquatic species.
Koering campaigned on one main issue. He was up front with voters, telling them he was opposed to the proposal to construct a $15 million Law Enforcement Center (LEC).
“I’m opposed to that at this time,” Koering said of the LEC. “Right now the county has $45 million in debt that they need to pay off. I believe that we have to get that debt paid off first and then take a look at whether or not we can afford to build a Law Enforcement Center.”
Koering said he just doesn’t think the county can afford that project right now with unknowns for the economic forecast and the state’s budget.
Another hot-button issue is whether to move from electing an auditor-treasurer and county recorder to appointing those duties, perhaps in a revamped model without those specific positions.
“I’m going to keep an open mind on that issue,” the Fort Ripley resident said. “I’m always about saving money and cost savings, with that said there is one sacred right that Americans have and that’s to be able to vote on who they want to be their government leaders.
“I get worried when we take away elected positions and turn them into appointed positions.”
But Koering said he wants to keep an open mind and weigh out which is best for residents before he makes a decision, but doesn’t know enough about it yet.
“One thing I’m going to be is a budget hawk,” he said. “I think we need to continue to see how we can keep the budget down and even see how we can squeeze it a little bit more.”
Koering said the people in his district are concerned about property taxes they say are still pretty high.
“I think I’m going to have a huge learning curve, hopefully I’ll just keep my mouth shut most of the time so that I can listen and learn and get up to speed so I can do a good job representing the people in southern Crow Wing county. That’s pretty much my plan.”