Our Community Is Looking For Leaders

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People seeking election to the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, the state’s governorship, and the Minnesota House will be filing for election this coming Tuesday in hopes of winning election in November. But in many ways, those who seek to hold office in St. Paul or Washington, D.C., are not the ones whose actions will have the most significant impact on the future health and success of our community.

Rather it is those who will be filing for the Swift County Board of Commissioners, the Benson City Council, and the District 777 Board of Education who will most directly have a say on the quality and accessibility of our health care, the excellence or mediocrity of our school academic and athletic programs, the providing of local services, and the future economic successes or failures of our area.

It is these leaders who will shape policy, property tax levies, and oversee the performance of the administrative leaders of our local governments.

Filings for one Benson City Council seat, four District 777 Board of Education seats, two Swift County Board of Commissioners seats, the county treasurer, sheriff and attorney, open Tuesday, May 22 and close at the end of the business day Tuesday, June 5.

Not everyone in the county will have a say in who is elected to our board of commissioners in November. Commissioners represent geographic areas of the county rather than the county as a whole. This year, the seats held by District 2 Commissioner Ed Pederson, north Benson and Benson Township, and District 4 Commissioner Joe Fox are up for election. Commissioners serve four-year terms.

Fox’s district is the largest in the county in geographic area. It includes:
City of Danvers            Cashel Township
City of Clontarf             Clontarf Township
City of Murdock            Dublin Township
Fairfield Township        Hegbert Township
Marysland Township    Shible Township
Six Mile Grove Township    
Swenoda Township      Tara Township
West Bank Township

It was South African Bishop Desmund Tutu who said, “I am a leader by default, only because nature does not allow a vacuum.” Sometimes we get lucky when leaders step up to fill that vacuum who are true visionaries, people who fight against the status quo, and are not afraid of the consequences of taking citizens in new and, at times, challenging directions.

Sometimes these individuals grow into their roles as leaders as they listen and learn. We’ve seen it over the year with people who are new to local government. They start out quietly, but with a passion and dedication to the responsibility they have been elected to by citizens. Over time, they become a voice that others turn to for input and direction.

Too often, however, when people fill leadership vacuums simply because a warm body is needed, we get someone incapable of leadership. We get a placeholder with no vision, no courage, and no inspiration. Their tentative and limited knowledge of what the community needs holds us back. They unquestionably follow the lead of appointed administrators instead of exercising leadership.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader,” John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States said. In difficult times, it is the leader who can see the needs of a community and inspire others of the necessity of meeting those needs that keep us moving forward.

Benson Public Schools is going out for a $26.3 million building bond levy. That bond levy is critical to replacing dilapidated buildings with ever mounting maintenance costs. It is needed to give our students modern facilities in which to learn – our newest school building is 64 years old, but we are using buildings dating back to 1928. 1928 was the year penicillin was discovered, the sliced bread maker was invented, and the year the iron lung was used to treat polio victims.  Improved school facilities are demanded by the business community that sees quality schools as essential to bringing new employees to the area.

Swift County is conducting a $20,000 study to look at the feasibility of a new two-story, 35,000-square-foot building for the sheriff’s office, a 25-bed jail, for its human services office, for 6W Community Corrections, the county attorney, and for the Restorative Practices program. The project would cost an estimated $15.6 million.

The county also can play an essential role in the future of our hospital and medical clinic, if it chooses to do so. In the past, it has been split on its support, which will cost the community hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary interest payments on the senior living/memory care facility now under construction. Swift County also is needed to support economic development for the area.

The City of Benson is also looking at facility needs, but after its construction of a needed new police station, the council is in no rush to take on another project.

More importantly, however, Benson has $20 million in economic development funds coming its way in the next four years. The city council, and its appointees to the Economic Development Authority, will make the decisions on how to best replace the loss of Benson Power, LLC, with new businesses that will make up for the lost real estate tax base and the lost jobs.

Another leadership quote we like is from legendary World War II General George Patton: “Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.” We have too many people in this community who do nothing but criticize the work of others. When asked to serve, these naysayers and do-nothings come up with a dozen lame excuses why they don’t have time.

For those who have taken your turns at service, “Thank You!” For you that have considered serving on a public body, we need you now.

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