Incumbent Anoka County Commissioner Matt Look is challenged by Allison Lister in District 1.
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, who is a junior in college, and son, Cordell, 13, who is 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 have two children. I graduated from Bethel University with a degree in political science and a minor in economics. I have successfully run a small business for over 15 years. I am a former Ramsey City Councilmember (2006-2010) and am an avid outdoor sportsman. Since being elected county commissioner, history has been made. We reduced the levy (what you pay in taxes) by 7.43 percent. We introduced a voluntary separation program saving over $1.5 million annually. We withdrew from the NLX train to Duluth saving $1 billion in capital costs and $40 million annually. We began a paperless system saving thousands and implemented many employee suggestions based on a recent job satisfaction survey. Over the past few years, I have built relationships with other city, county and state departments and with issues like Highways 10, 47 and 65, experience will be critical to navigate us through the next four years.
2. What should be the priorities of the county board and why?
Lister: Because priorities are different, depending on whom you ask, it is important for the board to work with all agencies, residents and employees to provide a balance of these competing initiatives.
Door knocking and talking to the residents in District 1 has taught me that people want jobs and the county to assist where possible with job creation. At the same time, everyone wants tax cuts, reduced spending, debt reduction and a smaller, less intrusive government. The reality: individuals are in need of government programs and support more than ever before.
The answer is in the middle, which will take a collaborative effort with give and take on both sides. This will require the board to respectfully work together to provide this balance. That is why we need to throw out the politics and get to work.
Look: Debt reduction. Anoka County currently is $210 million in debt. However, since being elected in 2010, we have focused on needs and thereby eliminated many unnecessary expenditures. We also have charted a six-year financial plan to rapidly reduce the debt down to a manageable $30 million. This is important because our county’s future is defined by the strength of our financial position. We have major transportation expenses coming up with regards to Highways 10, 47 and 65. We must decrease our debt now to allow for future investments in these critical infrastructure projects.
Increase efficiencies in delivering services. Document imaging is an example of a way we have been able to decrease expenses without sacrificing services. In fact, multiple staff members in multiple areas can now instantly find documents. We have reduced staff time and copier expenses while increasing efficiencies. There is no excuse for environmental abuse when technology exists.
Enhance city/county communication. We must continue to work closely with cities, include mayors and councilmembers and leverage our combined resources to address our current interconnected challenges. Working together achieves better, more efficient results for the taxpayers.
3. What role should the county board play in stimulating economic development in Anoka County?
Lister: The county has an obligation to spend the taxpayers’ money with frugality in mind. By looking at past mistakes, cost analysis and tapping into the talented people around us, the county can wisely support plans for future infrastructure and economic growth. This does not always have to be about footing the bill. By supporting a synergistic approach to development, the county will allow more people and businesses a stake in the outcome.
Look: Our cities are struggling to gain the tax base they need to operate successfully. We must do what we can at the county to help our businesses and citizens. They need tax reduction. We can achieve this through eliminating wasteful spending, implementing new technology, refinancing debt and focusing on our needs. We reduced the levy for the first time last year and are looking to repeat this year.
Prospective businesses consider the ease of moving goods and services necessary to start up, relocate or expand. We spent $70 million on failing roads and bridges to create a more attractive climate to prospective businesses. We must continue to make infrastructure a priority. We should explore the feasibility of tax abatement opportunities for larger employers considering Anoka County. Creating a business friendly climate in Anoka County will allow job opportunities to increase for our residents and help stabilize our community.
We should continue our alliances with local chambers of commerce and Greater MSP, a private-public partnership committed to stimulating economic growth by being the point of contact for businesses looking to locate or expand in our area. These organizations already have successful efforts in place to attract businesses.