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Viewpoint: County has delivered on important issues

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opinion Cottage Grove,Minnesota 55016 http://www.swcbulletin.com/sites/all/themes/swcbulletin_theme/images/social_default_image.png
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Viewpoint: County has delivered on important issues
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

Thank you for the opportunity to serve our community over the last four years. It has been very rewarding to be able to represent the needs of south Washington County.

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When I ran for office in 2010, residents told me that they were tired of career politicians putting themselves before the people. Politicians were raising their pay and raising taxes to pay for their cushy jobs. Taxes and budgets were a huge concern as people were losing their homes and jobs and could not afford to put food on the table, let alone pay more in taxes. Yet, politicians were letting our roads crumble while advocating for high cost, low service projects that would never be a viable solution. People were ready for a leader who is in touch with the community, lives and breathes what the people are experiencing, and knows firsthand the hurdles it takes to start and run a business in the community.

I am very proud to report I have delivered in the areas that residents told me were important to them. We have never voted ourselves a pay increase during my tenure. We held the levy flat during the Great Recession and decreased it in 2012 when property owners needed tax relief the most. We accomplished this by reprioritizing spending and implementing LEAN to stretch your tax dollars further.

When I was elected, the road budget had not been increased in years. As a result, the condition of county roads were dwindling rapidly. With my leadership, we made roads a priority and increased the budget from $4 million to $7.3 million annually. Additionally, residents told me 4-H was important to them. As a result, we have increased the 4-H budget from $30,000 to $133,000.

Residents told me they didn’t want to wait decades and pay hundreds of millions of dollars for commuter rail transit that provides the same low level of service we have now, but on rail instead of tires. They wanted a service that was all day, every 15 minutes, bi-directional, and had amenities. With all day service, second and third shift workers along with recreation use could be possible. Through my strong leadership for data-driven decisions and extensive public input, the Red Rock Corridor Commission is implementing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) within a couple years. BRT mimics light rail but is on wheels and a fraction of the cost.

Finally, economic development is very important to the quality of life. As a small business owner, I understand economic development. Historically, the county had been resistant to support cities in their economic development efforts. Our current county board has embraced economic development and has changed our policies to enhance our cities’ development efforts.

In addition to all of the projects the public can see we are doing, I wanted to remind you that I also promised I would clean up internal operations to ensure the county was being run as efficiently as possible. My management experience and two master’s degrees have been critical in these efforts. As a certified LEAN facilitator, it was a priority that we implement LEAN principles to ensure we streamline operations throughout each department. We now have over 250 employees that are LEAN trained, so throughout the organization we have people looking for ways to save taxpayer dollars.

Being a small business owner, it was easy to recommend common sense changes like “Daylight Savings” where janitorial services were moved from after hours to daytime. This saved the county over $100,000 each year in energy costs by turning off the lights at 5 p.m.

As you can see, Autumn Lehrke follows through. I am in the middle of doing some really great things for Washington County and I humbly ask for your support for a second term for Washington County commissioner.

Autumn Lehrke is campaigning for re-election to the District 4 commissioner seat on the Washington County Board. To learn more about her campaign, go to www.vote4autumn.com.

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