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Our View: County election shows citizen’s power

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opinion River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

In reality there were some good county board supervisors who were defeated in the April 1 election; we suspect more good people will take their places.

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The election demonstrates the voting power of the people if they organize and put in some hard work. We’ve often said that local elections have a more direct impact on citizens than national elections. However, because voter turnout is generally much lower than in the glamorous fall elections, it is easier for a candidate to swing an election.

Such was the case with the county board last week.

Last week’s election -- in which five Hudson area incumbents were defeated by challengers -- will mean a significant change in the board, the group that sets county government priorities, provides financial oversight and adopts county laws.

A campaign to elect several candidates to maintain county services for the elderly and disabled is apparently responsible for a shakeup on the county board.

In a half-page ad in the Hudson Star-Observer the week before the election, Friends of the St. Croix County Nursing Home urged voters to elect Chris Babbitt, Howard Novotny, Roy Sjoberg, Scott Nelson and Jill Berke (Berke’s opponent was not an incumbent). All five Hudson area candidates were successful, in part because of an energized campaign from the county’s union employees and Democratic Party sympathizers. It was a prime example of grass-root politics at work.

Another Hudson incumbent, Clarence Malick also lost – his defeat did not fit the profile of the others, since his opponent appears to be a bit more on the conservative side.

Since another five incumbents did not seek reelection, 10 of the 19 supervisors will be new.

The five who were defeated are all from the Hudson/North Hudson area and include current board Chairman Daryl Standafer, who has served on the board for 20 years, and former chairman Buck Malick, who has been on the board for 16 years. Also going down to defeat were Tim Hood, Fred Yoerg and Rich Ottino.

Aside from the nursing home, there were other issues in the election, including, privatizing an agency that provides work for persons with disabilities, the county administrator’s role, selling of county land in New Richmond and the possible selling or moving of the Agriculture and Education Center in Baldwin.

An interesting side note, remember when there were 31 county board members? In those days voters were lucky to see races in two or three districts. With the current board of 19 districts, this year’s election saw races in 16 of the 19 districts – a much better representative approach to county government.

Whatever the reasons for the dramatic shift, it will be interesting to see the path of the new board in the next two years before the county board election in 2016. We thank the outgoing board members for their service – as we said, they were good people who took their responsibility seriously. Now, however, we wish the new board members the best as they take on their new roles.

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