If elected to the Board of Commissioners, what will be your top priority and why?

Jim Purfeerst: If elected, a top priority would be supporting strong agricultural and economic development in Rice County, working to attract businesses that offer good livable wages and benefits. Strong economic development improves financial stability for Rice County and increased opportunities for all of our residents and families.

It’s widely expected that the state’s $2 billion shortfall will lead to cuts in state aid to counties. How will you determine where the county can make cuts?

JP: Making sound financial decisions in order to have quality services, while minimizing tax burden is important. If the state’s $2 billion shortfall leads to cuts in state aid to counties, it may require budget cuts at the county level. To help make the best-informed decisions, I would need to hear a wide variety of input from many, including Rice County residents, county staff and the county administrator on priorities. I would encourage collaboration between departments as well as other local municipalities to look for creative strategies to prioritize, streamline and create efficiencies wherever possible.

How will you ensure the voices and concerns of those in your district will be heard and accounted for?

JP: If elected, I am committed to listening to the voices and concerns of those in my district. Being available to constituents and having an open mind in order to hear ALL perspectives is important. I will do my best to be available to those in my district, listen, and bring ideas and concerns forward in order that the Board can make well informed decisions.

What should be done to help the county recover from the economic damage done by COVID-19?

JP: It may be some time yet before we know the full impact of the pandemic on our economy. In 2020, CARES Act funding was made available to townships, municipalities and counties in Minnesota to help recover from the economic consequences of COVID-19. I support those funds being used to for a wide variety of needs – human needs (food support, emergency housing, etc.), as well as financial aid for small and large businesses that have been impacted negatively. I support continued advocacy at the state and federal levels to allow for flexibility in the use of those funds so counties can maximize the use of funding to best support local economic recovery.

What more should be done to maintain county roads and bridges?

JP: Maintaining roads and bridges is important not only financially but also for the safety of motorists and pedestrians, and is a responsibility of state and local government. County transportation systems are large financial investments. They need to be maintained properly and in a timely manner to maximize usage and ensure safety. The 2025 Rice County Transportation Plan has recommended guidelines on routine and preventative maintenance — these guidelines need to be followed and updated as necessary. I support the Rice County wheelage tax currently in place; it seems to be an equitable way to raise funds for road repair. In addition, I would encourage the county to work more collaboratively with townships to streamline roadside ditch management. This could lead to more effective, timely ditch management practices as well as potential cost savings.

Reach Regional Managing Editor Suzanne Rook at 507-333-3134. Follow her on Twitter @rooksuzy. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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