In their words: Otter Tail District 2 hopefuls respond to Pelican Press survey

David Helgerson

Otter Tail County Board – District 2

Brief personal background, education, career, bio:
First, I am a husband, father, and small business owner. My hometown is Grand Forks, where I met my wife while in college at the University of North Dakota. Our interests took us into furthering our education. My wife trained to become an OBGYN physician, and I obtained a master’s degree in health services management at the University of Missouri.

I worked in the insurance industry for ten years. I left my career when I realized we needed a more reliable and steady parental presence in our home for our two young daughters. During that time, I founded a medical document company and have operated that business for 23 years. I understand how to supervise employees, meet payroll, and the importance of budgeting.

Throughout my life, I’ve been coming to Otter Tail County and loving it, and I’ve lived here since 2017.

Please explain your motivation for seeking the Otter Tail County Commissioner District 2 office:

I am motivated by my concern that we are losing our liberties and freedoms. This is obvious nationally, but I believe much can be done locally to make an impact to preserve our rights. After talking with many citizens and business leaders, there seems to be a real dissatisfaction with local government.

Can you list a couple of the key issues you are focusing on for the campaign:
I have several key issues. Here are just a couple:

Citizens are restricted from speaking during the documented portions of County Commission meetings. Their concerns are therefore not part of the official record.

Voters, by way of electing their own officials, should be the ones improving and shaping their communities. Local government decision-makers appear to be deferring some decisions to non-governmental organizations and appointed persons. Voters deserve better.

Housing has been consistently identified as one of the top priorities in Otter Tail County. Can you comment on this issue, and ideas you have for addressing it as a county board member?

Any community-wide housing program should include citizen input. Programs must be guided by sound business principles such as project cost, financing, need, priority, debt, who benefits, who pays the bill, what strings are attached to sources of funds, and impact on the citizens of Otter Tail County.

General comments:
In considering any issue or topic, my intent is to uphold the rights of the citizens of Otter Tail County.

Jeff Gontarek

Otter Tail County Board – District 2

Brief personal background, education, career, bio: 
Otter Tail County has been my home since 1975. I was raised on one of our beautiful lakes (Big Pelican), on my family’s resort, and grew up living Otter Tail strong. 

I graduated from Pelican Rapids High School in 1985, have been homesteaded in Otter Tail County since 1996, met my wife of twenty-one years, and we raised our son in Otter Tail County. I have served Otter Tail County as an employee and invested in the community as a Correctional Officer, Water Patrol Officer, Community Service Specialist, and DWI Court Surveillance/Training Officer, aided in community growth through real estate, and had the dedication and privilege to volunteer with youth as a coach for baseball and fishing, firearms instructor, and a fishing guide for children with cancer. 

Please explain your motivation for seeking the Otter Tail County Commissioner District 2 office: 

As a Constituent in District 2, I find myself questioning the spending habits of the current board. As the county continues to grow, both internally and externally, the needs of the residents are unmet. Many of us are frustrated with revenue collecting without witnessing the improvements. 

We all have a vision of how we see our home. There is nothing wrong with small town, rural, farm, and lake life! We live here and are invested here. I am committed to preserving, protecting, and strengthening District 2 and Otter Tail County. 

We need to ensure that “County Business” is conducted in a manner that is in the best interest of persons who live in Otter Tail County. It is imperative to remember that although St. Paul, Minnesota, is the capital, it should not dictate how we live our lives in Otter Tail County. . 

Can you list a couple of the key issues you are focusing on for the campaign:
1. Returning to a logical and common-sense approach to local government issues. I do not support The Big Build of adding 5,000 units by 2025. I do not support the in-county lines Aggregate Tax. 

2. Supporting our small businesses, income-producing properties, and entrepreneur growth. 

3. Ensuring election integrity in all elections. 

4. County spending habits.

Housing has been consistently identified as one of the top priorities in Otter Tail County. Can you comment on this issue and ideas you have for addressing it as a county board member? 

On June 16, 2022, a poor decision was made to dissolve Otter Tail County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) and transfer operations to the Otter Tail County Community Development Agency (CDA) beginning 2023. 

This creates, in my opinion, additional Federal control and allows for unelected board members to make decisions for Otter Tail County residents. I do not support this resolution or The Big Build of 5,000 units by 2025. 

I have researched The Big Build, including the financial backing, and cannot agree with the project. The employment opportunities in Otter Tail County do not equal a surplus of 5,000 additional workers. 

I have spoken with many Otter Tail County residents, and although they understand housing and employment concerns, the vast majority do not believe in the Big Build. 

General comments: 
I respect the voice of constituents, families, small businesses, employers, schools, property owners, farms, churches, lakeshore owners, and townships. 

With increased taxes, unelected control, wheelage tax, property rights concerns, poor roads, planning issues, revenue assignment, and basic operation, we certainly see a continued negative theme placed upon our residents! 

Unelected persons should not have decision-making power over us. I do support the Constitution of the United States and the Second Amendment. Local leadership is our strength.

Rural and small towns are the heart of Minnesota! The attraction of our county and rural lifestyle will bring retirees, new families, and people beginning their careers. We live here! We are invested here! I am prepared and committed to preserving, protecting, and strengthening our highly sought-after small towns and rural living. 

Tammy Ziegler

Otter Tail County Board – District 2

Brief personal background, education, career, bio: 
I graduated from Wayzata Sr. High while working as a CNA and went on to graduate from Secretarial School while working in Adult Education and real estate. 

I received my dietary manager certification from St. Paul TVI and went on to work at LRH in Fergus Falls for ten years as a dietary manager. I owned Front Street Village Antiques/Boutique in Barnesville for ten years and was a promotions coordinator for more than four years in Hutchinson/Fergus Falls. I currently work at the Mercantile on Main in Pelican Rapids and am a supervisor for Star Lake Township.

I am a mother of six and have 16 grandchildren.

I was a gaming and barrel racer for the Mamel Trail Dusters and played basketball, volleyball, and chess, and was on the track team in high school.

I love gardening, camping, fishing, and I once traveled across the Dakotas on a wagon train.

Please explain your motivation for seeking the Otter Tail County Commissioner District 2 office: 
I want to put taxpayers’ money where it should go instead of misspending it. It’s time to stop the yearly increases in taxes and stop the corruption. Where is the money going?

Can you list a couple of the key issues you are focusing on for the campaign:

• Work for the people
• Freedom
• Taxes
• Welfare
• 2nd Amendment
• Social Security Issues

Housing has been consistently identified as one of the top priorities in Otter Tail County. Can you comment on this issue, and ideas you have for addressing it as a county board member?

I want to get people back to work. 

I believe all people who live here should pay taxes and not be able to come here and live tax-free for two years. 

I want to get people more involved with the future of our communities.

I believe housing for veterans is a very important issue.

General comments: 
I want us to take our freedom back and make sure our children and grandchildren have a good future in our country and do not become a slave to it.

Wayne Johnson

Otter Tail County Board – District 2

Brief personal background, education, career, bio: 
I am a lifelong resident of Otter Tail County, born and raised on a 3rd generation dairy farm just west of Dunvilla. My wife Dena and I have two adult children, Ian and Grace. I graduated from NDSU Fargo with a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science. 

For the past 29 years, we have owned and operated Super Septic Inc. Our success has come from focusing on customer service and problem-solving, the same skills I apply to my position as the current County Commissioner for District 2.

Please explain your motivation for seeking the Otter Tail County Commissioner District 2 office: 
I would like to continue the good work that we have accomplished in the last few years, expanding the tax base through investment in our community, and increasing the housing stock so that we can bring in employees and their families for the many open positions that are available at our local businesses. Bringing in more employees also drives the expansion of our schools, and small businesses, grocery stores, hardware stores, etc. 

We also need to continue to invest in broadband, to allow people to work from home if they so choose. I know of people who have extremely successful careers based out of the twin cities, who do most of their work from their lake home, due to the availability of great broadband.

I want to ensure that our citizens can continue to “Live their best life here!” in Otter Tail County.

Can you list a couple of the key issues you are focusing on for the campaign:
Economic development: We need to continue to grow our tax base in order to reduce individual property taxes. We need housing. Several of our larger businesses have been forced to expand outside the county, due mainly to the lack of available housing. 

We need to recruit and retain more labor force. We are competing statewide and nationwide for a limited number of workers. We need to let them know they are welcome here, and that this is a great place to live, work, and play.

I am also focused on public safety. It seems the radical elements of our society are becoming more radical and brazen, and we need to make sure our law enforcement has all the tools and resources they need to keep us all safe.

I am also focused on protecting our lakes. We can’t allow overdevelopment; we need to keep our 1,048 lakes clean, clear, and protected for all.

Housing has been consistently identified as one of the top priorities in Otter Tail County. Can you comment on this issue, and ideas you have for addressing it as a county board member?

1. Continue the countywide housing growth and investment initiative. We need to incentivize the construction of new housing units to meet the various needs of household types and income levels using things like property tax rebates. 

2. We need to build partnerships with and expand the capacity of non-profit organizations, community partnerships, and private developers to collectively respond to the housing challenge.

3. We need to seek funding opportunities to support new housing development, ownership opportunities, and reinvestment.

4. We need to advocate for increased funding and support of housing at the state and federal levels. 

5. Finally, we need to continue to partner with all our communities to assist them with their own unique opportunities.

General comments: 
Another huge priority is to implement our long-range strategic plan. We have spent countless hours speaking with citizens in both virtual and in-person meetings, and they have identified their top priorities going forward for the next 25 years.

1. Resilience 

2. Economy 

3. Land Use 

4. Public Infrastructure 

5. Natural Resources 

6. Parks and Trails

By continuing to follow and implement our citizen’s plan, we can address many of the needs and priorities of our county. I am asking for your support so we can continue to implement the citizen’s plan.

Dean Anderson
Otter Tail County Board District 2

Dean Anderson filed as one of five candidates for the West Otter Tail Area County Board seat, but has not been actively campaigning.

Anderson did not reply to the Pelican Rapids Press survey; nor did he attend the July 28 candidate forum hosted at Thumper Pond in East Otter Tail County.

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