County board chair
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Itasca County Board for electing me as their chair for 2018. It is quite a challenge to serve in this capacity. Itasca County is in a good position as we move into the new year, but we face many challenges as we move forward. The County Board gets pulled in many directions as a myriad of issues get thrown at us. We try to tackle projects for the improvement of the county’s facilities, roads and other needs. We may attempt to take on initiatives or seek important legislation and we sometimes get distracted because we tend to dilute our efforts. It will therefore, be our goal to focus this year on four main goals.
1. We need to do more for Mental Health. We need to better educate ourselves in regards to the mental health field and how it affects our citizens. We need to determine what are the challenges, successes and the obstacles in the mental health arena. Let’s start thinking of ways to move from Mental Illness to Mental Wellness.
2. Economic Development. By this I mean Major Industrial Development. We need good paying jobs with benefits to replace the lost jobs due to the shutdown of Magnetation and the Blandin #5 paper machine. This means we must do all we can to help make the erp-Mesabi Metallics-Chippewa Partners project a reality. This would return over a hundred Magnetation Plant 4 jobs and perhaps 300 or more at the Nashwauk pellet plant site. We will do all we can as a county board to help these projects succeed.
3. Trails & Tourism. We must focus all our energies as it relates to tourism on the need for local trails. We need corridors such as from Bovey to Nashwauk. We need to work harder to help our clubs and their volunteers. Motorized sports depend on trails and access. Look at what Aitkin County has done and the busy local establishments in Hill City. We made a good decision on opening up the county roads to ATV use. We need a concerted effort to secure permanent trails.
4. Finally, we need to take on what some would call, ‘Societal Ills’. The opioid epidemic is out of control. We are therefore joining other counties in seeking legal action to hold the pharmaceutical Industry accountable. More intervention, treatment and counselling services are just some of the ways to try to get a handle on this monster that destroys lives and families. Our ‘Out of Home’ placement costs are skyrocketing. The costs of out of home placements and other human service programs will bankrupt us if we don’t find a way to get on the front end of these issues and begin to turn the tide.
And so, for 2018, while issues swirl around us, we will try to focus on the 4 issues I have laid out. Mental Health, Economic Development, Trails & Tourism, and Societal Ills. I believe, by all of us working ever harder, smarter and determined, we can make a difference. We have good people on our staff. We have good vendors, agencies and non-profits in our county. It will take time, but we have a mission to accomplish.
Let’s get started.
Chair, Itasca County Board