Look facing three challengers in county board Ward 1 primary

County Commissioner Matt Look, Ramsey, has three challengers on the Tuesday, Aug. 14 primary election ballot for the Anoka County Board seat in District 1.

They are Dan Denno, Oak Grove; Tom Gamec, Ramsey; and Allison Lister, Oak Grove.

The top two vote-getters will advance to the Tuesday, Nov. 6 general election where the winner will serve a four-year term.

District 1 includes Ramsey, Nowthen, Oak Grove, St. Francis and two precincts in Anoka.

The ABC Newspapers sent questionnaires to all four candidates. Following are their responses in alphabetical order.

1. Biography.

Dan Denno

Dan Denno

Denno: During the Vietnam era I spent four years in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Intrepid. Following my discharge I gained an accounting degree and began working in the electrical industry as a project manager.

The greater part of my adult life was spent being involved in my children’s activities, acting as president and coach for the St. Francis Youth Hockey Association, cubmaster of Pack 511, coach and board member for Soderville Athletic Association, Sunday school teacher. My wife Lorraine and I have been married for 32 years and have three children and one grandchild. We attend Horizons Community Church in Ham Lake.

I have a lifetime of extensive and varied experience as an employee for both large and small corporations and as an employer. I have had the opportunity to sign both sides of the check. I have been self-employed in the real estate industry and have owned a fast food restaurant. I have been a project manager for commercial construction for 25 years.

Since my children are now grown I have become very active in politics. In 2010 I ran for Oak Grove City Council, was elected and am very happy with the results that we have had this last year and a half.

Tom Gamec

Tom Gamec

Gamec: Married 48 years, two children, five grandchildren, Anoka County and city of Ramsey resident for 40 years, retired small business owner and manufacturer sales rep.

Served city of Ramsey: Planning/Zoning Commission, city council, Charter Commission, mayor 18 years.

Served the community: Metro Parks and Open Spaces Board, Northstar Board of Directors, PACT Charter School Board

Lister: Allison Lister (formerly Allison Solfield) of Cedar and East Bethel grew up in Anoka County and graduated from St. Francis High School in 1984. She joined the Air Force in 1986 and married her husband, Chris Lister, in 1989. They both retired from active duty in 2007. They have two children: daughter Jordan (20 years) who will be attending her junior year of college this year at the Minnesota School of Business and son, Cordell (13 years), who will be in eighth grade at St. Francis Middle School where Allison also attended school.

After retirement from the Air Force, Allison briefly worked for Burlington-Northern Sante Fe as a mechanical foreman and as an employment representative for the state of Minnesota before being hired on as the director of Anoka County Veteran Services (2010-2012). She now lives in Oak Grove.

With a BA in organizational behavior from The College of St. Scholastica, she is now working on her master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology.

Look: I have been a resident of Anoka/Ramsey for over 40 years. I am the Anoka County Commissioner for District 1 (Ramsey, Nowthen, St. Francis, Oak Grove and precincts two and three of Anoka). I serve on 16 boards and committees at the county.

I have been married for 18 years and we have two children. I have successfully run a small business for over 15 years.

I graduated from Bethel University with a degree in political science and a minor in economics. I am a former Ramsey City Councilmember (2006-2010) and am an avid outdoor sportsman.

2. What qualities would you bring to the office of county commissioner?

Denno: As I mentioned before, I have a degree in accounting, which allows me the ability to understand budgets, balance sheets and account ledgers. The accounting system that the government uses is difficult to decipher without some accounting experience.

I am an advocate for the citizen and the taxpayer, not an advocate for the government. I have found that the government is very capable of taking care of itself and making sure that it gets its share, as we can see by its constant growth.

I believe in constitutional government. I believe in personal freedoms. I believe in less government intrusion. All my decisions while in an elected office have been made based on these beliefs.

I am not afraid to stand up for sensible government. I have brought up items that don’t make sense at the city level. Unfortunately at the city level we don’t have much clout. I look forward to having more influence over other government bodies as a county commissioner. This will give me the opportunity to push harder against nonsensical government programs and agencies.

I have the patience and the common sense to be able to deal with difficult people and difficult situations.

Gamec: I would bring the personal qualities of being open minded, non-judgemental and fair to the office of county commissioner. I feel these qualities will allow for open communication and the ability to build rapport with county department heads, employees and with fellow commissioners as well as with the people who represent other governmental bodies and outside agencies.

Along with those qualities I will bring a long history of working with city and county government and the knowledge this experience provides.

Allison Lister

Allison Lister

Lister: I am approachable and will make myself available to those who want to be heard. I want to listen to what our residents and employees have to say and vote accordingly. I have no political aspirations other than serving as county commissioner. This will allow me to listen to concerns from various points of view and ensure decisions are based on merit.

I will lead by example. Having worked for the county as a director, I became frustrated when I was not allowed input in my area of concern. Lack of leadership and communication are significant problems with our current board. I want to improve these critical elements of any effective government organization.

I have been, and will be, a strong advocate for veterans and their families. Simply put: I want a veteran back on our board.

Matt Look

Matt Look

Look: I am the only District 1 candidate with experience serving as a county commissioner and I have a successful track record of getting things accomplished quickly and respectfully while protecting the taxpayers’ wallet. I also run a small business successfully in this struggling economy.

A simple look around the district tells you that I have been busy and focused repairing roads (22, 5, 14, Bunker Lake Boulevard) and bridges. I am loyal, follow through and complete projects that are most important to Anoka County. Highlights include Mississippi River West Regional Park Boat launch, Ramsey Northstar Station construction, Oak Grove Cedar Creek Conservation Area (540 acres) purchase, County 9/Bridge Street intersection redesign (St. Francis), a “safe school route” for Pederson Trail/Highway 47 and recent investments in the Anoka County Fairgrounds. The next area I will focus on is the congestion on Highways 10 and 47. In just 19 short months, I have accomplished things never done in the last four decades.

I am the only candidate with experience serving as a county commissioner and the only one with a successful track record of getting things accomplished quickly and respectfully at this level of government.

3. What are the main issues of your campaign? 

Denno: Reduction or elimination of the commissioners’ credit cards and home office allowances.

A visible and vocal push back on the control exerted by the Met Council and their continuous growth in size, expenditures and expansion of control into all areas. This would include the Highway 35 corridor, where the Met Council has talked of putting in a pay lane.

A reduction in the tax levy for commercial properties as well as residential properties. Although the county lowered taxes on the residential properties this year, the commercial properties that I researched had a property increase.

A further reduction in government employees through attrition rather than through an early retirement plan that costs the county money. I would put a freeze on hiring.

A complete line-by-line review of the budget. With my experience in accounting I can do an in-depth review of the balance sheet and expense sheets and look for ways to cut costs. We need to make the finances understandable and straight forward.

Review of all the programs receiving state and federal funding to make sure that when funding sources dry up, the programs do not become a drain on the county’s resources.

Gamec: My main focus as a county board member would be to improve communication and working relationships with county departments to improve efficiency and productivity, reduce waste and ultimately reduce budget without cutting jobs to county employees or reducing services to county residents so that taxes can remain stable or even be reduced.

Another focus would be on transportation for county residents and surrounding communities by supporting the maintenance and improvement of our roads and mass transit options.

Lister: The obvious.

Being fiscally responsible with taxpayer money is a given and by now should go without saying.

Maintaining concern of current economic issues affecting our residents is important.

Paying attention to and increasing awareness of environmental issues must not be overlooked.

All candidates should be concerned with these three important areas which require thoughtful consideration and balance.

It is my goal to establish healthy working relationships between our commissioners, county employees, residents and surrounding counties. I am convinced me that the board’s history, personal grudges and politics are bogging down the ability of our county board to work effectively. This must be corrected in order for us to be productive in the areas mentioned above.

Look: There are many issues of importance but perhaps the most urgent is debt reduction. Anoka County currently is $210 million in debt. Since 2010, we have focused on needs versus wants and eliminated unnecessary expenditures. We have charted a six-year financial plan to rapidly reduce our debt down to a manageable $30 million because our county’s future is defined by the strength of our financial position.

Similar to your own home budget, over burdensome debt limits your options and puts you in a stressful situation. The county’s strong financial position will lead to community stability in these uncertain economic times.

A secondary issue of importance is congestion alleviation, specifically Highways 10, 47, and 65. Prospective businesses consider the ease of moving goods and services a necessary requirement to start up, relocation, or expansion. We have spent $70 million on failing roads and bridges, and we must continue to make infrastructure a priority.

Finally, we must continue to create a business friendly climate in Anoka County so jobs can flourish, employ our residents and thereby stabilize our communities.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com


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