Rachel Leonard*, Sherburne County Board of Commissioners District 5
Age: Healthy Senior
Family: Three children and five grandchildren
Occupation: Teacher, School Counselor, School Principal, Lawyer, and Farmer
Previous civic and community involvement: Present or prior member of: Adopt-a-Class, American Legion Auxiliary, Citizen League, Fairview Health Service Board, Livonia Lions, Livonia-Zimmerman Voices for Community Choices, Read to Succeed, Zimmerman Chamber of Commerce, Blandin Leadership Conference, Civic Club, Sherburne County Economic Development Alliance, Sherburne County Historical Society, Sherburne County Soil & Water Conservation District, Three Rivers Community Foundation. Plus many professional organizations.
1.What prompted you to run for the Sherburne County Board of Commissioners?
Several local citizens asked me to run for County Commissioner.
2. What makes you qualified to be a member of the County Board?
I have a Political Science Degree and a Law Degree. Being involved as both a County Commissioner and a community volunteer I know the public needs.
3. What are the top issues facing Sherburne County?
Managing the budget so that we continue to provide quality service. Another is keeping our environment safe, especially our waters. Providing good infrastructure such as roads and social services to those in need. Finding ways to make the best use of our resources both natural and people. Increasing economic growth. Reviewing the Emergency Plan.
4. What distinguishes you from your opponent and makes you a better choice for the position?
For the past 12 years I have provided the best service to my constituents by utilizing the expertise of our employees, listening to the concerns of the people, and working with my fellow Commissioners to assure we are doing a correct and transparent job.
5. What will your top goals as a Sherburne County Commissioner be?
•Governance of 13 departments and committees. This means a prudent budget.
•Be a “watch dog” over topics such as the use of eminent domain.
•Use creativity to formulate extra services to the people without incurring additional taxes.
•advocate for constituents.
6. Is it important for the county to continue supporting Northstar Commuter Rail as a transportation option for residents’ business and recreational use? Do you support the extension of the Northstar Commuter Rail Line to St. Cloud?
Sherburne Co. has the largest ridership and the Northstar encourages economic growth. Adding a St Cloud extension would provide for workers, college students, recreational events, and airport passengers.
7. What initiatives would you support to improve government for Sherburne County residents?
I encourage partnerships with private business, municipals, and other government units. Such as converting methane gas to electricity. By also bringing government benefits closer to the people through service outposts like the Veterans offices in Becker and Zimmerman.
8. If the board continues to keep the county levy from growing through the coming years, where should commissioners place priorities when costs are certain to grow?
We need to economize by streamlining day to day operations, becoming more energy efficient, providing services that generate fees, and using more volunteers.
9. What are the biggest threats facing Sherburne County? What can be done about them?
The biggest threat is the slow economy and the loss of funding from the State while mandating programs. We need to ask the State to allow the County to decide on how to spend our money. This means no unfunded mandates. It is a priority to promote the business climate.
10. What decisions of the county board have liked. What decisions of the county board have you not liked?
There are many decisions I have liked but the most important were the increased service to our people, better roads, improved veterans service, and zero levy increase. The decision I did not like was the trading of tax abatement for TIF (tax increment financing).
Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce Questions
Should Sherburne County change how it funds its share of Northstar operations?
I would like to see us fund the operations by generating sales tax instead of property taxes. However this would require legislative action. We are the only partner in the Northstar operations that does not have a sales tax.
What steps would you consider to reduce the property tax burden to local businesses?
I am a big supporter of local business but reducing business property tax requires State leadership because the formula for business and private taxes is provided by the State.
Does the County need greater flexibility and control over how it spends its own budget and if yes, how would you work to affect that type of change?
Yes, we need less unfunded mandates and more freedom in developing budget models for our departments. The State influences the budget through unfunded mandates and I will continue to lobby our legislators to effect change.
We should continue to offer tax abatement to businesses who increase their structure and workforce.