Sherburne County Board approves new map for commissioner districts

by Paul Rignell
Contributing writer

The Sherburne County Board of Commissioners has finalized a redistricting map to be followed for the next 10 years, with changes approved for four of the five county districts.

Most affected is District 3 (now represented by John Riebel of Becker Township) by retaining Becker and Orrock townships and the city of Becker, but losing Blue Hill Township, a precinct of Baldwin Township and the portion of Princeton within Sherburne County. District 3 is gaining two precincts of northern Elk River (2A and 2B), which had been split between districts 1 and 5. A new precinct is being established in the far southwest corner of Livonia Township, also to be added to District 3.

District 5 (represented by Rachel Leonard of Livonia Township) retains the rest of that township and the city of Zimmerman. The district will include all of Baldwin Township and the county’s portion of Princeton.

District 4 (represented by Felix Schmiesing of Palmer Township) adds District 3’s other loss of Blue Hill Township while retaining Haven, Palmer, Santiago and Clear Lake townships, the city of Clear Lake and the part of St. Cloud in Sherburne County.

District 1 (represented by Larry Farber of Elk River) retains six of the county seat’s eight precincts.

District 2 (represented by Ewald Petersen of Big Lake Township) is the lone district left untouched, retaining both the township and city of Big Lake.

Election season shift
Commissioners Farber, Leonard and Riebel each entered 2012 knowing their current terms would be ending this year with the seats up for election in November. But Commissioner Schmiesing’s District 4 had dropped enough in population over the past 10 years, according to census results, that state statute is requiring his seat to be challenged this year as well.

Sherburne County still would be bound in 2014 to post two of its five commissioner seats for election, meaning one of the four terms to be decided this year will be for only two years rather than the standard four.

The county was not required to tie the two-year term to Schmiesing’s district, or District 4, though that is how the matter was decided after some tense talk among commissioners at a meeting April 10.

The board voted 4-1, with Commissioner Leonard dissenting, to direct County Administrator Brian Bensen to leave the board chambers, find four equally sized slips of paper, write the number “4” on three slips and “2” on the fourth, fold them and place them in a bowl, and return to the chambers to have Farber, Leonard, Riebel and Schmiesing each draw a slip.

Leonard, who first joined the board with an elected four-year term in 2001, saw that term interrupted when she was forced to consider filing for a two-year term in late 2002 after a process following that decade’s census.

“I’m very opposed to it (this lottery),” Leonard said April 10. “If I get a two-year term, I will be doubly upset. It is very unfair.”

Schmiesing contended: “I don’t think there’s any better way for us to do it.”

He was quick to break the tension after drawing his slip of paper. “I got the ‘2,’” he said.

Schmiesing said regardless of how future elections may go between now and then, he doesn’t expect to be in board chambers for this discussion in 2022.

Filings for all seats to be up this year (districts 1, 3, 4 and 5) will open May 22 for a two-week period.