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Grand Forks County Commission candidates: A look at their answers to three questions from the Herald

Eight candidates are running to fill three open seats.

The Grand Forks County Office Building. Photo by Nick Nelson for the Grand Forks Herald.
The Grand Forks County Office Building. Photo by Nick Nelson for the Grand Forks Herald.
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GRAND FORKS — Eight candidates are vying for three seats on the Grand Forks County Commission, with the first of a two-step process occurring in the June 14 election.

The three open seats are at-large positions and voters will be asked to vote for no more than three candidates on June 14. Then, the top six vote-getters will advance to the General Election in November.

In the running are Tom Falck, Kimberly Hagen, K.C. Inman, Jordon Klava, Lon Kvasager, Bob Rost, Vanessa Richter and Mark Rustad.

Falck and Rost are incumbents who seek reelection after their current terms expire. The other seat is open after Diane Knauf — who served 16 years on the commission — chose not to run again.

The Herald recently sent a three-part questionnaire to all eight candidates. Their complete answers follow.

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Richter did not return a questionnaire, nor did she respond to a telephone message reminding her of the deadline.

Tom Falck

1. Why are you running for County Commission? 

Tom Falck.jpeg
Tom Falck, 2022 candidate for Grand Forks County Commission.
Submitted

I am running for reelection to the Grand Forks County commission because we are facing difficult times in balancing our needs as a county with our revenue stream. I think I have the ability and experience to assist in continuing to make this a great place to live and raise our families.

2. What in your background has prepared you for this position? 

I was an assistant state's attorney for Grand Forks County for over 30 years. That opportunity has given me experience and insight into our county government. I have also been a Grand Forks County commissioner for eight years and am currently chairman of the commission. During that time, I have pushed the development of the Grand Sky project at the Grand Forks Air Force Base.

3. What is the biggest challenge or issue facing the Grand Forks County Commission, and what do you feel is a solution to fix it? 

One of our biggest challenges is growing and diversifying our economy. Our growth, which stabilizes our revenue stream, hasn’t always kept up with the demands and needs of the people of the county. We need to encourage economic development and attract new businesses to the community.

The Grand Sky project is a good example. It is a Grand Forks County lease project. It has brought two large aeronautical companies to Grand Forks with over 165 well paying jobs and over $75 million in private investment. The county will continue to encourage additional development in that business park. We need to seek out and encourage additional businesses to make Grand Forks County their choice to build.

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Kimberly Hagen

1. Why are you running for County Commission? 

I am running to serve my community and the people in it. We are in a time where we need strong individuals to step up to the plate to lead with truth and listen to all views to find common ground to move forward.

As a mother of three children, communication, organization and listening skills are vital. I will offer a fresh outlook and bring new ideas to the commission that will be necessary to serve all the families in our area. I have experienced how decisions made by leadership affect not only the traditional family structure but those from single and split households.

2. What in your background has prepared you for this position? 

I have a degree in marketing and business management that has allowed me to work in a variety of positions throughout my career. I spent close to a decade working at Cabelas running the marketing and events department. This gave me the opportunity to work with many different types of people and organizations in our community and county. In 2013 I moved into the financial planning space at Northwestern Mutual, where I worked alongside individuals, families and businesses to create a stable and healthy financial future.

I know the unique needs of both a small and larger community. I grew up in a rural area in Minnesota and my family owns a business there. When making decisions we must take these things into consideration, with the end goal being the same, to protect and support people to thrive.

3. What is the biggest challenge or issue facing the Grand Forks County Commission, and what do you feel is a solution to fix it? 

Through my passion to serve the family dynamic, I feel daycare is a need we must address. I will work to uncover programs or services that do not get attention or not yet utilized alongside new ideas. I would work to ensure the success of county employees through competitive pay and benefits and other factors for long term success. And finally, bringing awareness and community interaction to the commission. We can find user-friendly interfaces and other ways to boost engagement.

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K.C. Inman

1. Why are you running for County Commission? 

There are three primary reasons I am running for County Commissioner:

a.) I want to add a business perspective to the Commission’s budget and see if we can accomplish more with the dollars the taxpayers give us. A business voice is missing from the commission.

b.) I am worried about the deferred maintenance that has built up in county infrastructure (bridges, roads, culverts) and buildings. We need to prioritize, plan and budget to get these issues taken care of. It is matter of safety as well as budgets.

c.) Economic development and affordable housing are areas of concern, and more attention must be paid to them. More and better jobs are needed across the county to benefit residents and their families. The growth of Grand Sky is one such major project.

2. What in your background has prepared you for this position? 

My business and financial experience of over 40 years will add a valuable point of view that will benefit the county taxpayers. I am a listener that will hear all points of view to produce the best solution. I have also held several leadership positions over the years thus understand board governance, leadership, and budgets.

3. What is the biggest challenge or issue facing the Grand Forks County Commission, and what do you feel is a solution to fix it? 

Deferred maintenance leads to neglect, safety problems and budget crisis. I believe we must plan and budget to get necessary repairs done in a timely manner as we can make the budget allows. Putting repairs off just causes more issues and expense as we delay.

Jordon Klava

1. Why are you running for County Commission? 

I am running for County Commission because I want to ensure everyone in the entire county is represented and has a voice in county decisions.

2. What in your background has prepared you for this position? 

My roots are in Grand Forks County, I grew up on a family farm here. I joined the ND National Guard after my junior year in high school, completed basic and AIT after graduating from Central and volunteered to deploy to Iraq shortly after. I am used to working with everyone to achieve a greater goal while not being concerned with personal interests.

3. What is the biggest challenge or issue facing the Grand Forks County Commission, and what do you feel is a solution to fix it? 

Fiscal responsibility is an ongoing challenge to maintain and improve our county. Flooding this spring has damaged many roads, and culverts, and bridges were already aging. We need to find good solutions to repair these, and other county improvements that are needed, without increasing taxes.

Lon Kvasager

1. Why are you running for County Commission? 

Lon Kvasager.jpg
Lon Kvasager, 2022 candidate for Grand Forks City Council.
Submitted

As a home owner and tax payer, I have a genuine interest to help maintain the services we currently have and continue to develop the future for our
children.

2. What in your background has prepared you for this position? 

With a background in business and finance, coupled with leadership experience on local, state and national fraternal boards & foundations gives me the ability to work with others toward sound decisions or solutions while considering all involved.

3. What is the biggest challenge or issue facing the Grand Forks County Commission, and what do you feel is a solution to fix it? 

To maintain a balanced budget while continuing the current and future services provided. Explore ways to secure and generate the additional funds required, while researching ways to save money without sacrificing necessary services we need.

Bob Rost

1. Why are you running for County Commission? 

Bob Rost.jpg
Bob Rost, 2022 candidate for Grand Forks County Commission.
Submitted

I grew up in Bellevue, Washington, and I graduated from Bellevue Community College with a degree in criminal justice and police administration.

I returned to Minnesota in 1970 where I accepted a position as Chief of Police in Stephen, Minn. I later became deputy sheriff with the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department, where I worked for eight years.

In 1979 I accepted a position with the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department. I continued to work for the Sheriff’s Department for 40 years. I served eight years as the Grand Forks County Sheriff.

After retiring I ran for and was elected to the Grand Forks County Commission.

I’ve been a county commissioner for the last four years. My work as a commissioner has been very rewarding. I really enjoy serving the residents of Grand Forks County. I make it a priority to listen to their concerns, especially maintaining a budget and controlling spending.

I also sit on many other committees as a commissioner. These committees are as follows: The Metropolitan Planning Organization, The Grand Forks County Fair Board, Northeast Human Services Advisory Board, Building and Grounds, Coroner’s Office, Public Safety and Infrastructure Planning and Zoning and Administrative Services.

I enjoy each of these committees. Seeing many projects to completion and making great advancements on others.

I also enjoy my time volunteering as a crossing guard at Kelly Elementary School. In 2018 I was honored with a National award for Crossing Guard of the Year!

I volunteer at the Grand Forks Senior Center. I help them with their traffic and “Meals on Wheels.” I also serve on the Senior Center board and just finished my term as president. I am also active with building the Grand Forks Law Enforcement Memorial.

I have been married to my wife, Donna, for 49 years. I have three adult children and six grandchildren.

2. What in your background has prepared you for this position? 

I feel my past experience as sheriff and my last four years as commissioner have given me the knowledge of all aspects of our county government. I am familiar with all departments within the county. My background as sheriff has made me fiscally responsible with our county budget.

Being a commissioner these last four years has been very rewarding. Working closely with our county residents has been my main priority. I want to continue to meet the residents’ needs while still maintaining a budget and without raising taxes.

3. What is the biggest challenge or issue facing the Grand Forks County Commission, and what do you feel is a solution to fix it? 

The biggest problem I see is we have to expand the jail, get a new spot for juvenile detention, the Sheriff's Department has to move out of the PD building and the state's attorney needs more room. So, the building things that we have to do.
We don't want to raise taxes or raise the mill levies.

As you are aware, we are pursuing home rule. We'll see what people think of it. As part of home rule, it would give us the authority to assess a half-cent sales tax, which would generate enough money so we can get these projects done without raising property taxes. As part of that half-cent sales tax, 20% would be for property tax relief, 20% would for Highway Department infrastructure (bridges, roads, things like that), and 60% would be for getting these buildings done.

My feeling is, when people come into Grand Forks County and shop, let everybody pay for these things instead of setting everything on the property owners.

Mark Rustad

1. Why are you running for County Commission? 

To improve the budgeting and maintenance within the county’s properties without a tax increase.

2. What in your background has prepared you for this position? 

I operate large budgets with my personal business and as the current customer business manager at UND housing through Johnson Controls.

3. What is the biggest challenge or issue facing the Grand Forks County Commission, and what do you feel is a solution to fix it? 

It is obviously fiscal issues, and maintaining of the properties, specifically river city speedway and the county jail off the top of my head. The jail is quite new so it is very troubling that it is already in need of as much work as has been reported in the media. The solution is to separate wants from needs and take care of the needs first like you would do in your own home. There is no need for additional taxes to be levied.

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