County commissioner, District 1 - Mark HenryHere is a profile on Mark Henry, who is running for the vacant Dakota County commissioner seat in District 1.
Q: Give us some background information, including how long you have been a resident of Hastings, your education, job position, community service and your previous and current connection with government.
A: I was born and raised in Dakota County and graduates from Farmington High School in 1978. I went into the earthmoving trade after one year in college and supplemented my first hands on experience with continuing education at Dakota County Vocational Tech at Hennepin Technical College. This prepared me for supervisory positions by the time I was in my mid-twenties. I have continued this quest for knowledge by receiving my University of Minnesota LTAP Roads Scholar degree in 2007.
I have been in business for myself since 1988, the last 15 years doing road maintenance for Castle Rock and other townships such as Eureka and Stanton. I have spent thousands of hours in boardrooms and pride myself on my ability to advise town boards in an impartial way, so as to not appear self-serving. I have set standards for roads and implemented federal mandated sign inventories and upgrades. I believe that the best way to achieve efficient government is to keep it small and responsive to people’s needs. Annual budgets in connection with long term planning are essential parts to this equation.
I have been a long time active member in several conservation groups such as Pheasants Forever and was charter president and present habitat chair for the Dakota Ringnecks Chapter based in Farmington. In conjunction with this, I have worked with numerous government agencies such as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District and Dakota County Land Conservation manager, Al Singer.
In 2010, I ran for and was elected to the Board of the Dakota County Agricultural Society, also known as the Fair Board. My agenda was to preserve the 200 acre restored prairie on the south side of the fairgrounds, thus alleviating the debt previously incurred by the society.
This was accomplished by negotiating a conservation easement with Dakota County, funded by LCMR, Lessard-Sams and other sources. The Ag Society has been very accommodating in regards to this property, allowing public used for individuals, public education and other groups. Being on the Fair Board has also allowed me to promote 4-H. I attended National 4-H Shooting Sports and Wildlife training in 2011. I also presently am sitting on the North Cannon Watershed Management Organization advisory panel, reviewing their 10 year plan.
Q: Why did you decide to run for this position?
A: I decided to file for District 1 County Commissioner because of the districts’ unique characteristics. It comprises at least half of the land mass of Dakota County and is primarily agricultural. Even the major cities in this district, Hastings and Farmington, are important in that they trace their roots to the beginnings of county settlement. I feel I’m more than qualified to address the major issues in this district, which are roads, watersheds, parks natural areas and law enforcement, while being aware of the needs of all county residents in regards to health and human services, finances, budgeting and economic development.
Q: What are the major issues facing Dakota County? How should they be addressed?
A: I feel one of the major issues facing Dakota County is the recurrent and long term establishment of high paying jobs in conjunction with affordable housing. County residents have long enjoyed a good standard of living, along with good access to recreational areas, and we need to continue that trend in the face of a stagnate national economy. Dakota County’s excellent highway system along with its growing park system, need to be properly funded to maintain its attractiveness to residents and businesses alike. In addition there is always a certain amount of interplay in areas where rural meets urban/suburban communities and county government needs to be mindful of such issues as property rights and zoning.
Q: With ongoing budget constraints, including less federal and state funds, is the county handling its programs/services and staffing in the right way?
A: I think Dakota County has done a good job of maintaining services in the face of reduced federal funding and the cutting of state L.G.A. (Local Government Aid). A few years ago, I went on a tour of the upgraded jail in Hastings and it is state of the art. 80% of the counties roads are state aid highways and funding has continued to be adequate to maintain the system. Dakota Counties’ maintenance fleet is regarded as one of the best in the nation, and upgrades are ongoing. County staff has done a great job in procuring grants and other sources of funding to protect natural areas and establish parks. I believe more funding should go to maintenance of these areas, but the same could be said for the states parks and WMA’s I have a friend, who is a county employee, that has a son in the county's health and human services systems and both he and his wife tell me that their experience with the county social workers has always been positive. I admit that I have much to learn in this area.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for this position?
A: I have a positive attitude and do my best to listen to other people’s needs. I’m good at forging partnerships and willing to compromise to meet overall goals. I have good negotiating skills and am well versed in contract standards and law. I have a good knowledge of District 1 and the people that live in it and I have the tools to represent this area. I promise to always be approachable, and to act in the best interest of Dakota County. That is why people should vote for me in the primary on Aug. 14.