Ted Bearth, Jeremy Olson face off in county commissioner race

Candidates running for public office in Washington County are busy with their campaigns, with just a few weeks remaining before the Tuesday, Nov. 4 election.

County Attorney Pete Orput and Sheriff Bill Huton are running unopposed, while District 2 county commissioner Ted Bearth of Oakdale will face challenger Jeremy Olson of Woodbury.

Washington County Commissioner District 2 includes the cities of Oakdale, Landfall, Pine Springs, Birchwood and Willernie, as well as portions of Woodbury, Mahtomedi and White Bear Lake.

Washington County commissioners serve four-year terms.

Washington County Board District 2

Ted Bearth

Ted Bearth
Jeremy Olson
Jeremy Olson

No stranger to politics, incumbent Ted Bearth has served as county commissioner in District 2 since January 2013, and as an Oakdale mayor and council member for 16 years. He also managed the Landfall Housing and Redevelopment Authority's properties for seven years. Bearth, 76, has a bachelor's degree in sociology and elected studies from the University of Minnesota. He lives in Oakdale with his wife Aggie.

Bearth said his past experience in municipal and county office makes him well qualified to continue serving in the position he currently holds. He also noted his sound communication skills as a strength, saying he “listens well and never jumps to conclusions.” He said he has the additional benefit of being retired, so he can focus his efforts on being a commissioner full time.

"I have the time to fulfill the duties and obligations of this office," Bearth said.

Bearth said Washington County needed do a better job retaining its "excellent employees."  He said for too long the county has trained employees, only to have them leave for better-paying jobs in neighboring counties or to work for the state government. 

He said the county board has begun to address this issue with recent pay increases for county employees and by bringing back the rewards program for seasonal employees.  The board is also reviewing employee job descriptions and salary ranges to determine how they compare to other counties, as well as the state.

When asked about budget priorities, Bearth said maintaining as flat a budget as possible would be a priority in coming years to keep Washington County residents' taxes low. Another priority, he said, would be working to maintain the county's AAA bond rating.

Challenger Jeremy Olson, 41, is married to Elizabeth Olson and lives in Woodbury.  He earned his MBA in finance and entrepreneurial management from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. He works as a financial reporting and budgeting principal at the Education Credit Management Corporation in Oakdale.

Olson said his business experience in engineering, finance, technology, marketing and operations make him well suited to be a county commissioner.

"I have proudly applied my knowledge and skills across multiple different organizations that includes over 10 years in a managerial role of accounting and finance," he said. " I have worked with medical manufacturing companies, the Department of Human Services, the Ramsey County Second Judicial District, and currently work for a non-profit education company in Oakdale."

Olson said population growth along the Gateway Corridor is and will be a key issue moving forward over the next several years, which he said presents some unique challenges. He said growth should be supported with "consistent and reliable community services, public safety, roads and infrastructure."

The county, he said, should take advantage of technology and innovation to maximize services and control costs, employ good fiscal management practices for efficiency, and support an atmosphere that welcomes private development and encourages competitive markets. He said the county should continue its focus on core services and limiting the tax burden.

Olson said his top budget priority if elected would be to sufficiently fund core services such as public safety, roads, community services, administration and parks, and to develop a culture that focuses on innovation, new technologies and cost saving processes.

The general election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 4 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Visit http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us/ to find your polling place.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822.



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