Ham Lake City Councilmember Julie Braastad is challenging incumbent Anoka County Commissioner Andy Westerberg for the District 2 seat.
Braastad: I am currently serving my second term on the Ham Lake City Council where we have been the leader in Anoka County in low taxes and maintaining the highest median home values.
I have been involved in setting precedence for limited government all while providing taxpayers with the necessary essential services.
I am a certified paralegal currently doing contract work and have worked in civil litigation, real estate and family law in the past. I also assist my husband in the operations of his electrical contracting business.
Unlike my opponent, I am not a career politician. I will bring honesty and integrity to District 2.
I believe that everyday citizens and community leaders should become more involved in the operation of government rather than leaving it to career politicians. I am committed to listening to the people of Anoka County.
I am a hands-on proven leader constantly looking for ways to provide services more effectively and efficiently.
I believe that the Anoka County residents of District 2 deserve an energetic, passionate, hard working person representing them at the county level.
You will find that I am involved in the community on a regular basis and not just at election time.
Westerberg: I am currently serving as Anoka County Commissioner District 2 (northern part of Blaine, about half of Andover and the entire cities of Bethel, East Bethel and Ham Lake).
I also own and manage a small business going on 31 years.
My past accomplishments include being a state legislator eight years, Metropolitan Airports Commissioner, Minnesota Amateur Sports Commissioner and director for the Fellowship of Christian Golfers.
I was elected to serve as president of the North Metro Association of Life Underwriters. I also teach senior defensive drivers training for the Minnesota Highway Safety and Research Center.
I enjoy serving with the Ham Lake Lions and was a former volunteer firefighter.
I have an AA degree from Anoka-Ramsey Community College and CLU designation American College.
I am married 36 years, have four children and two grandchildren.
I also enjoy golf, fishing, travel, riding my motorcycle and most of all spending time with my family.
2. What should be the priorities of the county board and why?
Braastad: Stop wasteful spending – I will protect your pocketbook.
I will thoroughly look at all options available regarding the Northstar Commuter Rail.
It doesn’t make sense to me to continue to subsidize this losing effort at the cost of over $1 million per month while ridership continues to drop.
Reduce the county’s $210 million debt – manage needs versus wants. We must commit to operating within our revenue streams and without bonding.
A combination of new budgeting practices, spending reductions, consolidation and other restructuring will be needed to make Anoka County viable into the future.
The county board must be committed to maximizing taxpayer value by delivering only necessary government services in the most cost-effective and sustainable manner possible.
Improve our infrastructure while protecting landowner rights – Highways 65 and 10 need immediate attention.
I will concentrate on keeping transportation dollars on the roads and bridges.
I believe the county board needs to involve landowners early on in the planning process. It is important to gather their feedback and listen to their concerns before a project is started.
Insist on limited efficient government – government should not be an intrusion in our lives but in the background protecting our freedoms and rights.
Westerberg: We must continue finding ways of doing things better.
We will have to prioritize needs just like we do at home to keep our fiscal house in order.
It has been a tremendous honor to serve as an Anoka County commissioner.
During my first two years in office, I can say with confidence that I have achieved what I set out to do.
Prudently reducing the size and scope of government while ensuring that we provide necessary and vital services in a cost effective manner.
I am happy to report success. We (county board) have reduced spending by over $8 million enabling us to pass along a 7.43 percent reduction to you the taxpayer.
This is the largest tax reduction in as long as anyone can remember. Some say it goes back more than 40 years.
We followed that effort with another reduction in 2012.
We accomplished this by seeking operating efficiency, eliminating unnecessary activities and changing the way Anoka County does business.
Making government efficient puts more money in the pockets of our taxpayers helping them to achieve their hopes and dreams in the land of opportunity.
3. What role should the county board play in stimulating economic development in Anoka County?
Braastad: I believe that the role of the county board is to create a favorable environment that will attract new business while retaining current business.
The number one thing we can do is ease the tax burdens on businesses and commercial property owners.
This happens through finding innovative ways to provide services in the most effective and efficient manner possible.
We must create an environment where the private sector can grow and expand and create jobs.
From my experience I know firsthand how important it is to allow businesses to be driven by the free market and not be restrained by government interference or over-regulation.
I believe government should be an enabler of commerce not a barrier.
A goal of mine while serving on the Ham Lake City Council has been to minimize government intrusion in the lives of our business owners and taxpayers.
Secondly, it is imperative that Anoka County invest in infrastructure that meets the needs of our business community.
Businesses need the infrastructure that allows for people and products to travel safely to and from their properties.
We must also respect the rights of property owners when we are in the planning stages of construction projects.
Westerberg: Being fiscally prudent will allow businesses to start and expand operations in Anoka County by not putting heavy tax burdens on them.
Looking for ways to help businesses grow and provide jobs requires open lines for communicating the advantages we offer here in our county.
We must provide and maintain transportation avenues that effectively move traffic safely including people, products and services.
We put more money into road and bridge projects than in any of the prior 10 years and we will be adding an express bus service on Highway 65 in the fall of 2013.
I will continue to promote county assets like our hospitals, colleges, numerous golf courses, Bunker Beach and other beaches, horse racing, 10,000 acres of county parks, the National Sports Center, our county airport and the new veteran’s clinic to name a few.
These assets should be maximized to reach their potential.
Examples include Discover Aviation Days, PGA Seniors Golf Tournament and the USA Soccer Cup.
Government should maintain infrastructure critical to our way of life keeping Anoka County a great place to live, work and raise a family.