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County commissioner profile: Gary Kriesel

Gary Kriesel

Age: 61

Occupation: Retired after 33 years with Northern States Power (Xcel Energy). Served in U.S. Navy

Education: St. Paul Vocational College via NSP four-year apprentice program; National Association of Corrosion Engineers-basic corrosion course certificate; Smith and Associates-Gas Leakage Management certificate; Dale Carnegie Customer Relations and Employee Development course certificate; numerous governmental and business seminars

Civic Involvement: Former member of the Stillwater City Council; Stillwater team member of the Gate Communities; member of the Stillwater Park and Recreation Board; Washington County Community Services Advisory Committee; Stillwater Lions Club; St. Croix Valley Video Productions; Stillwater Charter Commission; Washington County Library Board; Washington County Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee; American Legion Post 111; columnist for the Stillwater Gazette

Has lived in the District for 47 years

After many years of public service, Gary Kriesel is interested in taking the next step. That step, he hopes, is a seat on the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

"My promise to the voters is I'll continue to be a strong voice in representing them," Kriesel said. "I'm not afraid to make a tough decision, and I'll do what's right."

The Stillwater resident has worked in the public service industry most of his life, 33 years of it at Northern States Power (now Xcel Energy) as both a project designer and customer-service representative dealing with county and municipal governments.

He retired in 1999, and became involved with several county and community organizations, including the county's library board.

He was elected to the Stillwater City Council in 2000, and served two terms. And now Kriesel is one of two candidates vying for the District 3 seat on the county board, a seat currently held by his older brother, Nile, who chose not to seek re-election. District 3 includes the cities of Stillwater, Oak Park Heights, Bayport, Afton, Baytown Township, West Lakeland Township, among others.

"Those experiences make me qualified to serve as a county commissioner," he said. "I appreciate Washington County and want to keep it a great place to live,"

Kriesel became active in politics while serving as a community columnist for the Stillwater Gazette. "I've always been actively involved in community issues," he said. "I take great interest in issues that impact the community, whether it's the bridge in Stillwater or land-use concerns."

Key issues facing the county, Kriesel said, include dealing with possible losses in both federal and state aid.

"Washington County provides outstanding services, and the ability to maintain that excellent service is in question if there are more cuts," he said. "The county staff has done an excellent job maintaining services."

A result of that aid loss was for local governments to create fees to generate revenue. Kriesel said the state must allow cities and counties to raise their own tax levies.

"It's a nontraditional tax," he said of the fees. "I want to get rid of them and go back to traditional taxation. Traditional taxation allows for full accountability. It's a double-whammy to the people."

However, Kriesel knows that will be difficult, because governments are unsure of the future. "It's become fear-based, and they say 'we don't know what the state is going to do, so we better keep these fees.'" he added. "If you have a fee-based method to raise revenue, people can't claim that as an income tax deduction. It makes elected officials and staff take a more objective look at things."

Urbanization is another issue facing the county, and how to manage the rapid growth without severely impacting traffic and the environment.

"People have questions about how are we going to preserve open space and natural resources, while maintaining the quality of life that we all enjoy," Kriesel said.

Kriesel's goals, if elected, are to maintain essential county services. "It's my line in the sand," he said. "The taxpayers expect it."

Another goal is to build solid relationships with all communities in District 3. Be active to bring those communities together to foster planning that would benefit all of them. An alliance of communities.

"Growth is going to occur, and you shouldn't necessarily oppose it for the sake of opposing it, but rather you should work to influence what you end up with," he said.

Kriesel said it would be his responsibility to meet with local officials, and he added he's interested in meeting with Afton city officials to learn of their concerns.

"We need to look at the greater good for the whole district and accomplish the right solutions to many of the issues," he said.

Outside of politics, Kriesel enjoys family-oriented events, including bowling, fishing and surfing the Internet. Kriesel's family is extremely close, his two daughters' families live in the same cul-de-sac as their father.

Politics is not a popularity contest, Kriesel said. "My focus is to do what's right, and to represent people fairly and equitably. I like to take a common-sense approach.

"I just love getting out and meeting people," he added. "I try to maintain a good pulse of the community, which is more important than personal philosophies so that you can truly represent the people you serve."

Kriesel said he can't comment for his opponent, Washington County Sheriff Jim Frank, but said his experience speaks for itself. He was the only city council member to vote against Lumberjack Days, Stillwater's community festival.

"I have a proven track record as a Stillwater City Councilman, and that I'm a common-sense elected official," Kriesel said. "I do my homework on issues, and actively seek people's opinions. I don't represent myself, I represent them."

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