County voters send mixed message to local governments

Morrison County voters sent mixed messages on Tuesday. Generally, folks seem pretty happy with their local governments.

However, one big exception was the Morrison County Board of Commissioners, where two incumbents, Jeff Schilling and Rich Collins, were upset. Jeff Jelinski and Randy Winscher will replace them.

With Tom Wenzel retiring, and being replaced by Kevin Maurer, that means that the Board will have a majority of newcomers.

Former U.S. Speaker of the House “Tip” O’Neill famously said, “All politics is local.” We had not heard rumblings that the voters were unhappy with county government, so the only thing we can attribute the election of Jelinski and Winscher to is that they were either better candidates or ran better campaigns than the incumbents.

On the other hand, those people upset with the Little Falls City Council have been quite vocal, but the voters rejected their arguments. Long-time Council Member Urban Otremba was ousted in a three-way race, but the winner was Greg Zylka, who continues to be the most popular vote-getter in the city.

If you get the chance, we recommend thanking those office holders who lost or are retiring for their years of public service. It takes a lot of personal sacrifice to serve the public, and the rest of us should remain grateful that somebody is willing to do it.

A bigger concern at the local level is that voters rejected another attempt by the Royalton School District to pass a special levy. Royalton has a good school district, but it has financed many of its programs through open enrollment. Many of the students from outside the district, who brought thousands of dollars in state aid to Royalton, came from the Sauk Rapids-Rice District. Sauk Rapids-Rice is finally getting its act together, and passed a special levy to improve what it can offer to students.

It may not happen overnight, but if those open enrollees start to drift away from Royalton, the district, which has already been forced to make some cuts, will have to slice a lot deeper. Almost all Minnesota school districts have a special levy of one amount or another, so Royalton really is an exception in that regard.

Be that as it may, voter turnout was strong, and the democratic process worked as intended once again.