With the throes of the campaign behind them, two opponents for the Crow Wing County District 5 race are finding common ground to work together.
Commissioner Doug Houge was re-elected to another four-year term Tuesday in a close race.
Houge received 52 percent of the vote and challenger Kris Hasskamp garnered 48 percent.
After the election, the two met to talk in Crosby. It may not be the type of congenial conversation typical when the election results are still warm.
The common ground for the Cuyuna Range residents is an effort to give students a better understanding of county government.
Hasskamp, who spent 12 years in the state Legislature, has a passion for government. She was encouraged to run for the county post, she said, by people who wanted someone who had more time for the office and to pursue funding resources.
“It was close, that’s what makes me feel good,” Hasskamp said of the election.
Following the election, Hasskamp, 61, said she offered Houge her help. She said she’s willing to help leverage more grant dollars for projects such as the Milford Mine Memorial Park.
“I think it’s nice two opponents can work together to help the area,” she said.
Houge said he had no problem working with Hasskamp on projects that fit. The youth and government program was a perfect fit, he said.
“We’re looking forward to doing something with her on that,” Houge said.
Hasskamp is director of the Crosby-Ironton Youth and Government Civics Project, a program initially started by the Gordon Rosenmeier Center for State and Local Government in Brainerd. Hasskamp said the project first worked with Central Lakes College but found a home with the Crosby-Ironton School District’s community education.
The goal is to bring the government experience to young people from what it’s like to run for office to a close-up look at how local and state government works.
“That’s my passion, that’s what I want to be doing,” Hasskamp said.
The county government segment is where Hasskamp and Houge plan to work together.
“I’m just happy the program is going to continue and I’m going to be able to expand it,” Hasskamp said.
The county government portion is being developed for seventh and eighth grade students. As part of the program, students will sit in on a county board meeting and tour the Crow Wing County Jail.
Ninth-grade students learn about the state Legislature. Those students take a turn acting as elected officials by creating, amending and debating legislation. They also go to the state Capitol for a day and meet officials.
One of the things she likes about it, Hasskamp said, is working on a government project that doesn’t involve partisan politics.
She wants to add an adult education component to show people how to effectively lobby elected leaders.
Hasskamp said she’s not going to say never in terms of seeking elected office again but she enjoys her work as a substitute teacher and with the government and civics project.
Houge, a small business owner as well as lumber business manager, said he believes county government should be run more like a business where working together is part of the process.
Houge said: “Sometimes you don’t always agree with one another but you have to work together to get the job done.”