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Dakota County Commissioner Voter Guides

Nicole Bengtson
Advocacy & Public Policy, Business Ideas, Editorials

2018 Dakota County Commissioner Candidates

The following questions were developed and used from the 2018 Election Candidate Questionnaire and East Metro Voters Guide. 

Kathleen Gaylord

Bio: I am the Chair of the Dakota County Board of Commissioners. I am an attorney/partner in the law firm of Weinblatt & Gaylord in Inver Grove Heights and the former Senior Corporate Counsel for Northwest Airlines. I am also the former Executive Director of the Minnesota Tax Study Commission where I built the first computer simulation of Minnesota’s property tax system and was instrumental in bringing “Circuit Breaker” property tax relief to Minnesota. Tens of thousands of Dakota County residents have received tax refunds from the Minnesota Property Tax Refund and Renters Credit that evolved from my work.

I am also the former Mayor of South St. Paul. I have over 30 years of public policy experience leading local, regional, state, and national organizations with the skills and experience to deliver smart, creative solutions and real results.

I attended Macalester College as a math major, earned a B.A. degree in economics Magna Cum Laude and continued my post-graduate studies in Business Taxation and Public Administration at the University of Minnesota before earning my Juris Doctorate from William Mitchell College of Law.

What is the biggest challenge facing your district and how would you address it?

Two of the communities in my district are struggling financially. I have recognized that challenge and have worked to keep county taxes as low as possible to help residents already burdened by high city taxes. I have also stepped up to offer a wide range of county services to benefit these communities and sought out grant and funding strategies to help them with trails, road improvements, wetlands restoration and economic development.

What would be your top three priorities if elected?

  1. Addressing the challenges we face with smart, creative solutions.
  2. Maintaining our high-quality services and our leadership in controlling county property taxes.
  3. Listening to all voices and building coalitions and partnerships to move the county forward.

What do you believe are the most essential services provided by county government?

Dakota County provides 225 programs and services to county residents, including record keeping, emergency services, veterans services, public safety, public health, elections, transportation, parks and libraries… but the most essential services are the human services provided by community and social services. These services include child protection, emergency assistance, food supports, housing and economic assistance, and other safety net services.

Todd Podgorski

Bio: I have been fortunate to serve South St. Paul as a two-term City Council Member and a one-term School Board Member. On the City Council, I supported and helped lead our voter-approved parks and Doug Woog arena improvement bond referendum. I am also proud to have supported hiring two additional police officers and a Sgt during my time on the Council. Working on the South St. Paul Economic Development Authority to assist with economic development and job growth, has been a highlight. While I was on the School Board I helped support a voter-approved operating levy that helped us reduce class sizes, improve discipline with having a planning room at the H.S., and having all-day kindergarten with no fee years before the state covered the full cost.

I earn a living as a peace officer in one of the state’s largest and most diverse counties. As a peace officer for over 20 years, I understand the importance of public safety. My background as a long time CIT-Crisis Intervention Trained officer dealing with mental health emergencies gives me a unique understanding of our shortage of mental health and chemical dependency treatment options.

What is the biggest challenge facing your district and how would you address it?

There are many important issues facing our district. I am passionate about keeping our community safe and believe the County has not done enough to help with our district’s crime concerns. With 4,900 active criminal warrants in Dakota County we need a dedicated warrant apprehension team to help bring justice to victims. We also need to better serve people in our community who have mental health and or chemical dependency concerns. We can better serve these people by providing supportive 16 bed or smaller treatment centers.

What would be your top three priorities if elected?

  1. Enhancing public safety and health.
  2. Improving roads and infrastructure.
  3. Fostering job creation, economic development and housing options.

What do you believe are the most essential services provided by county government?

Public safety and health. Roads and infrastructure.


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