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Pulkrabek: Advocate for taxpayers, not county

Bill Pulkrabek said his job as Washington County commissioner is to be a taxpayer representative.

The 12-year county commissioner, who is seeking re-election, said too many elected officials become advocates for the government in which they serve and they get "indoctrinated into this culture of (government) spending."

Pulkrabek takes a different approach.

"I look at my job as I represent the taxpayers of my district," he said. They go to work and "just want government to stay off their back, keep taxes low" and provide only core and essential services, he said.

Pulkrabek said he fulfills his commissioner responsibilities, but he also is a Realtor and owner of a small public relations company. He does not see his County Board seat as a full-time job.

"You give clear direction on matters of public policy and the way the county should go," he said, later adding that he is knowledgeable about issues affecting the county. "I don't think there's anybody that's going to say I'm lacking in details or don't know what's going on with the county."

Pulkrabek has pushed to freeze the county property tax levy. Amid criticism from his colleagues, he has unveiled his own list of possible spending cuts near the end of the year. He opposes the county's quarter-percent sales tax to fund transportation projects, saying the county does not get to spend nearly what it contributes to the multi-county program.

Pulkrabek may be facing his strongest opponent since he was first elected to the County Board in 1998. His challenger, Lake Elmo Mayor Dean Johnston, has consistently criticized Pulkrabek as not being engaged in work and meetings that occur off camera. (County Board meetings are televised, but other committee and organization meetings commissioners participate in are not televised.)

Pulkrabek dismissed Johnston's claim that being an effective commissioner requires participating in more government meetings. Pulkrabek mockingly suggested a campaign slogan for his opponent: "Vote for Dean Johnston: He'll go to more meetings with bureaucrats."

Johnston said commissioners should be more involved in regional economic development efforts, but Pulkrabek said government's only job is to create an environment that is friendly to the private sector.

That is done by keeping taxes "to a minimum," knocking down fees and eliminating regulatory "red tape," he said.

Last year, Pulkrabek was criticized by his fellow commissioners for missing some county meetings. When they elected him County Board chairman this year, he said he would meet his commissioner obligations.

Plus, he added, Washington County is well run and he has received no complaints from people claiming the county missed out because he does not make it a full time job.

"I've yet to hear where the county's lacking," he said.

Bill Pulkrabek

Age: 40

Residence: Oakdale

Family: Married.

Occupation: Realtor; owns small public relations business.

Experience: County commissioner since 1999. Oakdale mayor 1995 to 1998.