Name: Doug Houge
Current Employment: Manager, Stenerson Lumber/Crow Wing County commissioner/owner, Crosby Bar and Bottle Shop.
Public Office Experience: Five and a half years as Crow Wing County commissioner
What are the counties biggest challenges and what will you do to meet those challenges?
Property values in Crow Wing County have declined nearly $2.3 billion dollars over the past four years. Crow Wing County’s fiscal year 2012 budget reflects the board’s desire for a fiscally responsible budget and levy. The 2012 budget is $70,464,618 with a levy of $34,876,657 or a (2.37 percent) levy decrease from 2011. This decrease is the highest levy decrease in Crow Wing County history. With more years of similar challenges, focus must remain on learning to do more with less. Maintaining the highest level of customer service for the taxpayers of Crow Wing County must also remain a priority.
How would you balance conflicts between encouraging business and preserving the county’s natural resources?
The Crow Wing County Comprehensive Plan, enacted in 2004, provides the vision and framework for guiding future growth and development in Crow Wing County through the year 2023. This plan specifically embraces the policy that preserving our natural resources and encouraging economic growth are tied together. As the plan states, “a strong economy, social well-being and a healthy environment are not mutually exclusive, but interdependent. One can not exist without the other.” Balance can be achieved through professional management of our public forest recreational standards, which has been established through our Comprehensive Recreational Trails Plan, enacted earlier this year.
Are there any specific programs you would cut or eliminate?
Rather than cutting necessary programs, I would continue to identify areas in which efficiencies will improve services provided to our customers, the taxpayers of Crow Wing County. Where redundancy or ineffective services are found, I will continue to support reforms and innovations that will create more value and better service. An example of this is the consolidation of five separate departments into a single Land Services department, resulting in $3 million in savings to taxpayers. While serving on the Board, a process was established that reviews all programs and identifies these improvements. These efforts resulted in a 2012 levy with the largest levy cuts in CWC history.