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Could Woodbury dominate county board?

Washington County commissioners have expressed concern that the county's largest city, Woodbury, could eventually dominate the County Board after new district maps are established.

With redrawn commissioner districts in the offing next month that will shift district boundaries - and shrink or expand districts based on the county's population changes - board members last week laid out principles to guide the county staff assigned to remake the county's electoral map.

One principle proposed by board Chairman Dennis Hegberg -- but ultimately not adopted -- was to prohibit one city from being represented by three commissioners. That would constitute a majority on the five-member commission after the board voted to reject expanding by two members.

Hegberg, who represents District 1, said a redrawn map that divided Woodbury into three commissioner districts could give the city control - or perceived control - of the board.

"To me, that would be, maybe not as a practical matter, a difficulty," Hegberg said. "But, politically, [it] could be difficult."

Other commissioners - including Lisa Weik, whose district represents a large portion of Woodbury -- echoed Hegberg's concerns but said it was too early to eliminate a redistricting option.

"I'm not sure we understand the geography of the new lines," Commissioner Gary Kriesel told the board, saying the establishment of a principle that prevented any one city from being represented by three commissioners could eliminate "a critical option."

"I don't know how that affects the process," Kriesel said.

District 4 Commissioner Autumn Lehrke, who represents south Washington County on the Board, could pick up a portion of Woodbury through redistricting. She said she understood the concern but said that representing part of the city wouldn't sway her votes.

"I'm not going to vote just for Woodbury and dis my other five communities," Lehrke said, discussing the possibility her district could expand into Woodbury. "They won't control my vote."

Washington County will remain divided into five commissioner districts when redistricting maps are drawn over the next month, commissioners decided last week.

Board members voted 5-0 to stay at five commissioner seats as new boundaries are drawn before an April 20 deadline. The vote came after a public hearing on the subject that drew no public comments.

Board members had expressed resistance to expanding the commission at a redistricting workshop last month, saying that despite metro counties Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey having seven-person boards, Washington County didn't need two additional commissioners.

Officials said March 13 that draft maps will be made public early next month.

"I didn't think there was overwhelming support to increase government representation," said Hegberg, of Forest Lake, the board's chair. "But it's an important issue."