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Crow Wing County Commissioner: Brekken defeats Thiede for board seat

Bill Brekken

Bill Brekken has been elected as the newest member of the Crow Wing County Board, representing District 2 and defeating longtime board member Paul Thiede.

"I was gratified to have the opportunity to win and excited about working with the county and the citizens," Brekken said. "I am proud of my team and the campaign we ran - I think we ran a good campaign ... We did everything we could throughout the district to be able to win. My hat's off to all of the people who were supporting and encouraging me."

The Brainerd resident edged incumbent commissioner Paul Thiede of Pequot Lakes, earning 3,705 votes - just 85 more than his opponent. Thiede couldn't be reached for comment.

"It was brutal," Brekken said of the close race. "You're down 20, and then you're up 31. Just going back and forth, it's an emotional roller coaster. You do the work ahead of time, and fortunately we came out with the win."

Brekken spent Tuesday night at the courthouse in Brainerd watching results come in from the different precincts.

"The anxiousness of how these votes are going to come - I found that fascinating," he said.

District 2 includes the cities of Crosslake, Jenkins, Pequot Lakes, Breezy Point and Nisswa. Commissioners serve a four-year term and are paid $30,900 a year.

Brekken was the executive director of the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation and worked with the Center for Lifelong Learning at Central Lakes College prior to running for County Commission.

His opponent, Thiede, is currently serving in his fourth non-consecutive term on the county board. Prior to his time on the board, he served four terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Thiede focused his campaign on his conservative values and making the county more efficient, while Brekken put emphasis on connecting with people and being a "bridge-builder."

"I was gratified to have the opportunity to win and excited about working with the county and the citizens," said Brekken. "I am proud of my team and the campaign we ran... We did everything we could throughout the district to be able to win. My hat's off to all of the people who were supporting and encouraging me."

As District 2 commissioner, Brekken will face some of what Crow Wing County citizens consider the most pressing issues, including drug abuse, out-of-home placement for children and strengthening the workforce.

Brekken has said his diverse experiences in both for-profit and nonprofit settings as well as working in education make him well-equipped to address such problems.

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