Newly elected leaders should focus on results, not conflict

Mike KnaakEditorial, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. Joseph0 Comments

It’s time to turn the page. The election is over. A record number of voters have spoken.

Even nature sent a symbolic message that a new season is here as voters woke up on the morning after the election to find fall replaced by sharp winter winds and snow.

The message is clear. Voters told candidates that in races from city hall to the U.S. Capitol, they wanted to elect leaders who could work together and produce results, not spend time attacking the motives of their opponents.

In Central Minnesota, the challenge of compromise and conciliation should be easier because of the many new leaders elected. They start fresh with no scores to settle or previous actions to protect.

For the first time in 16 years, Stearns County voters elected a new sheriff, Steve Soyka. He takes office after two years of changes at the top. When former Sheriff John Sanner retired in May 2017, the county board appointed Don Gudmundson to fill out the term. Now with a new,  elected sheriff, expect Soyka to lead a department that will focus on community policing and transparency as well as take a more active stance to recruit and retain officers, especially for the jail.

Rocori school board member Lisa Demuth will be the new representative in House District 13A, replacing Jeff Howe who was elected to the Senate. Demuth’s expertise as a school-board member should be useful as the Legislature tackles education funding and student performance. While she aimed to run a positive campaign, outside PAC money targeted her opponent, Jim Read, with very negative ads. But Demuth has said as a legislator, she’ll look for areas of agreement first. That may be a bigger challenge now that her Republican Party is in the minority.

In Sartell, voters elected Ryan Fitzthum as mayor to replace Sarah Jane Nicoll who did not seek re-election. Fitzthum and his opponent, David Peterson, were both city council members. During the campaign, Fitzthum touted his deep community roots and service on the council and as a volunteer firefighter.

Fitzthum will need to find compromises and provide leadership on challenges facing the city including the final stage of a new public-safety facility, development of the former Verso site, how to manage and finance the community center and how to manage the fast growth of giant apartment complexes.

While he’s not a new face in the Legislature, Howe’s move from the House to the Senate will present opportunities to work with his political opponents. Howe and his Republican colleagues hold a one-seat majority. With that slim majority, the upper chamber will need to work with a Democratic-controlled House and new Democratic governor, Tim Walz. In the House, Howe took stands on health care, transportation funding, education and taxes that were contrary to DFL positions. Now he and the rest of the Senate Republicans will need to look for issues to agree on or we’ll have another session that ends in deadlock and no action on big problems.

For Howe in the Senate and Demuth in the House, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Three new members will join the St. Cloud school board. Zachary Dorholt, Natalie Ringsuth and Les Green will replace three long-time board members – Bruce Hentges, Bruce Mohs and Jerry Von Korff. Green served on the board before and Dorholt was a legislator. The three new members will oversee opening of the new Tech High School, but also set policies and goals that address the district’s weak test scores and issues with diversity.

Along with re-elected officials, these new leaders will be judged at the next election on whether they can work with people they agree with as well as opponents to produce results, not gridlock.

Author: Mike Knaak

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