Area chamber members had the chance to meet five of their 2013 state legislators Friday, Dec. 14, at a Brainerd Lakes Chamber event at the Arrowwood Lodge in Baxter.
Two lawmakers currently serve, two are new and one previously served. But all have new districts they represent because of redistricting that redrew legislative boundaries.
• Current state Sen. Paul Gazelka, Republican from Fairview Township in Cass County. He will represent District 9, which includes Cass, Wadena, Todd and Morrison counties.
• Current state Rep. John Ward, Democrat from Baxter. He will represent District 10A, which includes Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Jenkins, Breezy Point and Gail Lake, Jenkins, Ideal, Pelican, Mission, Center and Lake Edward townships, Brainerd, Baxter and Unorganized Territory in Crow Wing County.
• Former Sen. Carrie Ruud, Republican from Breezy Point. She will represent District 10, which includes Crow Wing and Aitkin counties.
• Newcomer Joe Radinovich, Democrat from Crosby. He will represent District 10B, which includes Crosslake, Manhattan Beach, Fifty Lakes, Emily and Timothy, Fairfield, Little Pine, Ross Lake, Perry Lake and Wolford townships in Crow Wing County, as well as other parts of Crow Wing and all of Aitkin County.
• Newcomer Ron Kresha, Republican from Little Falls. He will represent District 9B, which doesn’t include communities in the Lake Country Echo coverage area.
Rep.-elect Mark Anderson, Republican from Lake Shore, was unable to attend because he was out of state for pilot training. He will represent District 9A, which includes East Gull Lake, Lake Shore and Fairview, Home Brook, Loon Lake, Wilson, Walden and Bungo townships in Cass County.
At the chamber breakfast forum, Gazelka said the upcoming session will be different because he will be a member of the minority party. He wants to work on business property tax reform, particularly for small businesses. It’s time to deal with spending, he said.
Ruud said she campaigned on bringing jobs to the area. She will advocate for an educated work force to fill jobs available today.
Ward spoke of the need for both parties to compromise and the need for constituents to communicate with legislators.
Radinovich said he’ll be the youngest representative in the Legislature at age 26. He became involved in politics because he has seen what budget cuts have done to school programs and he wants to reinvest in the next generation of Minnesotans by looking at the K-12 education system.
Doreen Gallaway, chair of the chamber’s Crosslake Advisory Board and chair of Crosslake Days, wanted legislators to be aware of Minnesota Department of Health guidelines regarding businesses serving food at cookoffs.
A chili cookoff is a big part of Crosslake Days in September, and enforcement of the guidelines caused business participation to drop 35 percent last fall, Gallaway said.
“And that’s a big deal for us,” she said.
“These are small businesses who take the time to make the chili because people come to the area and it’s free. They’re not restaurants. They’re small businesses. The whole idea is to bring people to businesses,” she said.
This is an example of how big government has gotten, Gallaway said, noting this enforcement will affect Winterfest in Crosslake in February, where businesses serve soup for free.
Laureen Borden, Crow Wing County auditor/treasurer, asked the legislators, “Isn’t it great to be elected?”
She wanted legislators to be aware of a proposal to eliminate the elected positions of auditor/treasurer and recorder in the county, and asked them to give the proposal serious thought.
“Check with constituents and don’t let the process be rushed,” Borden said.
She also spoke of election reform and property tax system reform, asking legislators to use her and her staff as resources.
Regarding a Minnesota Chamber concept to move the primary election from August to the end of May or beginning of June, Ward and Radinovich said they support the move. Gazelka didn’t know how he would vote on this question, but it wasn’t a top passion.
Ruud said she’d want facts and discussions before deciding.
Ward said legislators from Greater Minnesota, or “real” Minnesota, as he calls it, were at a disadvantage.
“Metro people go home and door knock. We don’t. We live down there,” he said of campaigning.