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Joe Gould, Don Heinonen to face off for District 2 seat on Beltrami County Board

Joe Gould and Don Heinonen will face off to represent District 2 on the Beltrami County Board when the race continues in November after both made it through the primary election on Tuesday, Aug. 9.

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Joe Gould, left, and Don Heinonen will face off in the Nov. 8 general election for the District 2 seat on the Beltrami County Board.
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BEMIDJI — Joe Gould and Don Heinonen will face off to represent District 2 on the Beltrami County Board when the race continues in November after both made it through the primary election on Tuesday, Aug. 9.

Gould and Heinonen were two of five candidates included in the primary and received the highest number of votes, Gould with 456 — 52.47% of the votes. While Heinonen received 173 — 19.91%. Both will now be included on the ballot for the Nov. 8 general election.

The other candidates were Adam Bommersbach who received 98 votes, Darren Tobey who received 92 votes and James Ravnikar who received 50 votes.

Joe Gould

Joe Gould, 35, is a Bemidji State University graduate and a sixth-grade teacher in the Cass Lake-Bena school district.

Gould hopes to approach the budget with the goal of getting more state funding directed to Beltrami County through being in regular contact with state representatives.

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“It’s tough, there’s not a lot of wiggle room currently, so what I would like to do is contact our legislators every week,” Gould said. “I think our leaders in St. Paul need to do a better job to support our counties in terms of county aid and (Payment in Lieu of Property Taxes).”

Gould said he would also go after state bonding dollars to help pay for infrastructure and other costs while keeping the county taxes low.

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Joe Gould

“If we can get more bonding dollars, which will help pay for roads and bridges, county aid and PILT will keep property taxes as low as possible,” Gould said.

As for how Gould would approach public safety, he emphasized that creating a good relationship with the new sheriff and other law enforcement agencies would be vital.

“Public safety is a top priority of any government,” he explained. “I would want to create a positive relationship with the new sheriff, whoever that’s going to be, and be brought up to speed on the issues facing law enforcement.”

Public safety also ties into another of Gould’s priorities, which is investing in children's mental health throughout the county.

“One of the main reasons I’m running is to invest in children’s mental health and mental health support for families as a preventable measure to help bring down the crime rate,” he explained.

Gould hopes that supporting children and families in distress on the front end will help reduce calls to law enforcement and create a safer and more supportive environment in the county.

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Another topic Gould discussed was working to retain and recruit county employees, through improving pay and other methods.

“We need to be paying our county employees more and make sure that every office is filled to its capacity,” Gould said. “I think there’s certainly room for improvement there.”

Don Heinonen

Don Heinonen, 58, is a shop and fleet shop manager and a graduate of Northwest Technical College. He has been a resident of Bemidji for 38 years.

Heinonen has been carefully considering how he would approach the county's budget if elected.

“I’ve been doing a lot of research into the county budget, and to be honest there’s not a lot of room for movement,” Heinonen explained. “What I would advocate for moving forward is to make sure we’re keeping a balanced budget.”

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Don Heinonen

To help increase the funds available to the county, Heinonen would work to lobby the state and federal government for more local county aid. This includes taking a look at the formula used by the state government to portion that funding.

“They need to reformulate that so they take into account the economics of a county as well,” Heinonen explained. “It’s a tough thing and tough sell, but I think it’s just one of those things that you’ve got to keep after.”

He also noted the county’s tax levy, which he would like to keep as low as possible.

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“As you move forward you really need to make sure that you’re providing the best services you can within the budget and the levy you set forth, and making sure that you keep that levy in that five to six percent annually,” Heinonen said.

Public safety, Heinonen said, is one of his top priorities. He would work to coordinate with law enforcement agencies and try to improve access to mental health services and different support programs for those in the county jail or going through the criminal justice system.

“I think we all need to work together, collaborate and pool those dollars so we can control crime,” Heinonen said. “I think the key is that you’ve got to try and find some more ways to make sure that everybody in the county feels safe.”

Heinonen would also work to increase access to mental health services outside of the criminal justice system.

“(It’s ensuring) there’s enough facilities and collaborating with those facilities to make sure the people that really need those services have access to them,” Heinonen said.

The final topic Heinonen brought up was supporting and improving the county’s infrastructure.

“I think we need to find and leverage some new ways to use county dollars to be able to fix our infrastructure,” Heinonen said. “We need to make sure that we’re looking at all of our infrastructures, whether that’s roads, bridges, parks or even county buildings.”

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