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Pulkrabek bids 'adieu' to County Board

Commissioner Bill Pulkrabek was elected Washington County Board chairman for 2010, but commissioners have raised concerns about his participation at county meetings.1 / 2
Dennis Hegberg2 / 2

Washington County Board members praised a pair of outgoing commissioners at its final meeting of 2012, honoring them for their years of service.

The board passed resolutions recognizing District 1 Commissioner Dennis Hegberg, of Forest Lake, and District 2 Commissioner Bill Pulkrabek, of Oakdale, both longtime commissioners who were defeated in their bids for re-election last month and will step down Jan. 6.

Lisa Weik, who represents much of Woodbury in District 5, called Hegberg, who served for 23 years on the board, "a mentor."

"Everyone has a common thing they say about Dennis, that he has a good heart," Weik said.

Pulkrabek, too, noted Hegberg was a mentor for him as a young commissioner who had taken the time to get to know him beyond the board room.

"I could always count on you to be the steady hand on the board," Pulkrabek told Hegberg, "and you've earned my respect many times over."

Hegberg, a former bank executive, was first elected in a special election in 1989, and was re-elected in 1992, '96, 2000, '02, '04 and '08 before losing to Hugo Mayor Fran Miron last month.

He thanked his fellow board members in an emotional statement, saying he had loved his 23 years as a commissioner because it was "an education all the time."

"It's been an honor given to me by God and the voters of District 1," he said. "It's the most interesting job I've ever had."

Pulkrabek was a consistently conservative, straightforward, sometimes stormy presence on the board who steadfastly advocated for fewer government programs and lower taxes. He was first elected to the county board in 1998, and re-elected in 2002, '06 and 2010, after serving as the youngest-ever mayor of Oakdale from 1995-98.

"As is in life, if I have one thing that I should have done more often while on the board, it is simply to say 'thanks,'" Pulkrabek reflected, thanking his constituents, fellow board members and more than a dozen county officials by name.

District 3 Commissioner Gary Kriesel, of Stillwater, who sometimes butted heads with Pulkrabek in the eight years the two men served together. But, last week, Kriesel praised his fellow board members sense of humor, ability to leave disagreements in the board room and his dedication to advocating for lower taxes in Washington County.

"What a friend of the taxpayer he was," Kriesel said. "I don't know anybody that was more tenacious in keeping an eye out" for taxpayers.