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5 candidates vying for District 2 seat on Beltrami County Board

Five candidates have decided to run for District 2 of the Beltrami County Board.

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From left: Adam Bommersbach, Joe Gould, Don Heinonen and James Ravnikar. Not pictured: Darren Tobey.
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BEMIDJI — All five districts of the Beltrami County Board are up for election in November, and now that the filing period has ended, the list of candidates has been finalized.

In District 2 five candidates are running: Adam Bommersbach, Joe Gould, Don Heinonen, James Ravnikar and Darren Tobey.

Incumbent Reed Olson is not seeking reelection and is instead running to represent Minnesota House District 2A.

Adam Bommersbach

Adam Bommersbach is a food, pools and lodging inspector for the state of Minnesota, and has lived in Bemidji since 2013 with his wife and two daughters.

“Having lived in the community now for an extended period of time, I’ve really grown to appreciate Beltrami County,” Bommersbach said. “I think it’s a very unique place.”

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Adam Bommersbach

Bommersbach was also inspired to run after watching his father, Steve Bommersbach, serve on the Norman County Board of Commissioners.

“I’ve watched him dedicate himself to representing the people of his district, and that’s something I’ve always thought is extremely admirable,” he said.

Representing every aspect and all of the different communities in the district would be one of Bommersbach’s priorities, and serving as a point of contact for constituents to reach out.

“Whether that’s the businesses downtown who are struggling for employees or the people who live in the district who are struggling to make ends meet," Bomemrsbach said, "I want them to know that they'll have someone who always has a phone and an email open."

It's also important to Bommersbach to spend the county budget wisely, especially when inflation and prices are high.

“Every time somebody hands over their tax dollars to Beltrami County, they’re putting in faith the county is going to put that money to good use because that’s one less dollar they have to fill up their car,” he added.

This is one reason why Bommersbach believes it’s important that the county provide services in a transparent, efficient and effective manner to support its residents.

Other issues Bommersbach is passionate about include improving support for homeless populations and those struggling with mental health.

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“There’s a number of problems the county is facing,” Bommersbach said, “and I want to be a part of those solutions.”

Joe Gould

Joe Gould is a Bemidji State University graduate and a sixth-grade teacher in the Cass Lake-Bena school district.

“As a county commissioner I will listen equally to homeowners, renters and our youth, and always put the needs of our citizens first,” Gould said.

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Joe Gould

Gould currently serves on the Bemidji Area Boys and Girls Club board of directors, is board treasurer for the Minnesota Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs and is also a member of the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Commission.

“I’d like to see the county invest more in children’s mental health and address homelessness and do more for veterans,” he said.

Gould hopes that his experience as a legislative staffer for the state’s Education Finance Committee will also be beneficial to his priority of county funding and budgeting.

“I would take a look at the county budget and kind of do a deep-dive and see what we can do with existing dollars,” Gould said.

This includes looking for ways to receive more funding from the state to Beltrami County, through aid and bonding bills.

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“I’ve always been an advocate for county program aid, that’s state dollars from the state budget,” he said.

He feels that with additional funding, different programs and efforts could be better financially supported, benefiting constituents.

“I want to do whatever is in the best interests of our citizens first,” Gould said.

Don Heinonen

Don Heinonen is a shop and fleet shop manager and a graduate of Northwest Technical College. A resident of Bemidji for 38 years, Heinonen has run four campaigns for the Bemidji City Council unsuccessfully but is now setting his sights on the Beltrami County Board.

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Don Heinonen

“I just figured that’s maybe where I need to change my focus,” Heinonen said, “look at serving on the county level.”

Heinonen has been involved in local politics for years and is currently a member of the Bemidji Charter Commission.

“I’ve been around government for nearly 20 years,” Heinonen said. “I think that I could make a good fit and move into the county level.”

If elected, Heinonen listed what some of his priorities would be. These included public safety, particularly where it intersects with substance abuse.

“When we look at the substance abuse going on in the county, that’s really something we’ve got to start looking at,” Heinonen said.

Other priorities included fiscal responsibility, road maintenance and an interest in the ongoing questions about the future of the county jail.

“We need to make sure that we all work together to ensure this community and this county is the best it can be,” Heinonen said.

James Ravnikar

James Ravnikar is the director of finance and human resources at the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School and has lived in Beltrami County with his family for 12 years.

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James Ravnikar

Ravnikar graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in economics and also holds a master’s degree in business administration.

“I’m running for county commissioner because I believe county governance is a very important job,” Ravnikar said. “Especially in a county like Beltrami with a tax base that is challenged so much by untaxable land.”

One skill Ravnikar hopes to bring to a position on the county board is his experience with finances and dealing with multimillion-dollar budgets.

“I will bring a wealth of experience to the job, including over 20 years of experience in business, organization leadership and finance,” he said.

Ravnikar is also a member of the Bemidji Charter Commission and a veteran of the Minnesota Army National Guard.

“Providing services efficiently while keeping property taxes low is my number one priority,” he added.

Darren Tobey

Darren Tobey was born and raised in Bemidji and is a lifelong resident of the city. He is also the owner of Arrowhead Glass.

“My main thing is I’m not a politician,” Tobey said. “I’m just a regular working person and I’m for the working people.”

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Darren Tobey

Tobey’s main priority if elected to the county board would be to help local communities and businesses by lowering property taxes.

“The ridiculous property taxes, there’s issues with that,” Tobey said, “it’s out of hand.”

Other priorities include repairing county roads, reducing crime and supporting retired veterans.

Through his business expertise, Tobey hopes to bring his financial experience to the county board.

“I’ve been a small business owner for 25 years, and with that comes a lot of responsibility with counting money, making sure it goes to the right places,” Tobey said.

Tobey hopes to balance reducing taxes with getting more state and federal funding to supplement the county’s budget.

“The money has to come from somewhere, obviously,” Tobey explained. “Any state money that’s out there, I’d go for that as much as possible.”

By running for county commissioner, Tobey hopes to make a difference and bring the people’s voices to the forefront.

“(Being elected) would be a good opportunity to try to make some changes,” Tobey said. “I am the people’s voice because they aren’t being heard. They can talk to me and I can be the voice.”

More Beltrami County Board election coverage

Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
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