When the Wright County Board of Commissioners convenes its first meeting of 2021 on January 5, it will do so with two new commissioners.
Three commissioners were up for election earlier this week. In District 2, incumbent Darek Vetsch won re-election with 8,096 votes (55.6 percent), defeating challenger Tom Perrault, who had 6,376 votes (43.79 percent). In District 4, challenger Mary Wetter defeated incumbent Mike Potter, with Wetter getting 6,507 votes (50.9 percent) to Potter’s 6,213 votes (48.6 percent). In District 5, there was a guarantee of having a new commissioner after sitting Commissioner Charlie Borrell announced he wouldn’t be seeking another term. Mike Kaczmarek won the election with 9,818 votes (65.22 percent) to defeat Dan Bravinder, who had 5,180 votes (34.4 percent).
For Wetter, it was the third time she and Potter had gone head-to-head in an county commissioner election and, despite leading through the night on Election Day, she never got overconfident because she knew her stiffest test would come in the final precincts that were going to report.
“I never was confident,” Wetter said. “The last numbers that came were St. Michael and Albertville. In all three elections, I had a lead on the cities and townships that had reported, but ended up losing those elections when St. Michael and Albertville votes were reported. This year I did well enough in both of those cities to get the votes I needed to win.”
Wetter said her commissioner style will be different from what Potter brought to the county, but believes she brings a new outlook and a new set of eyes to the issues the county board faces and is ready to stand up to that challenge.
“My strength is a little bit of everything,” Wetter said. “I am a conservative and my biggest push is that I’m going to listen to the people and act accordingly. It’s going to depend on how the board splits up the (committee) assignments. I've served on the Soil & Water Board, so I’m familiar with that area. I have many interests and my background that I bring to the county board. I’ve been very involved with the Historical Society. When I look at this job, I believe I bring a lot of different areas from my background that can serve me well as a commissioner.”
Unlike Wetter, who seemed likely to challenge Potter in 2020 for some time, Kaczmarek had no intention of running for county commissioner after narrowly losing the 2018 sheriff’s election to Sean Deringer. It wasn’t until January of this year when Commissioner Charlie Borrell announced he wouldn’t be seeking another term that Kaczmarek decided he would run.
With 30 years in law enforcement, the last 27 as a deputy in the Wright County Sheriff’s Office, Kaczmarek feels his experience in dealing with people has been beneficial to his campaign to win the District 5 seat and it will be a plus for him when his term begins in January.
“I think the knowledge and the relationships that I’ve developed throughout the district between the residents, business owners and city, township and county officials will benefit me as a commissioner,” Kaczmarek said. “The expertise and the experience of problem solving with people has always been one of my strengths.”
In a county that is extremely diverse with disproportionate growth in the northeast portion of the county, Kaczmarek wants to be sure that the residents of District 5 are represented and have their views heard on the county board. That was a strength of Borrell and Kaczmarek believes his life experience can continue that tradition of making sure the views and values of his district are represented on the county board.
“I’m going to be a voice for the people of District 5 and be a good listener,” Kaczmarek said. “Those are the skills that I’ve had to have for a long time. You listen to all sides of the story. I’ve had to make life-altering decisions without the benefit of putting people on hold or telling them I’ll get back to them in an email someday. You get a certain sense – a certain method, philosophy and skill – of evaluating things, solving problems and making decisions. I don’t think that is something you can teach. It is something that you pick up over many years. That has prepared me very well and makes it a good transition for this job. You don’t always deliver favorable news, but you tell people that you may not like my decision, but hopefully you will at least understand it.”
As new commissioners, both Wetter and Kaczmarek are going to go through a transitional adjustment to incorporate themselves into the county board, but both share one common goal – to represent the residents of their districts and be an active listener to bring forward their wishes and concerns to make them a part of the county conversation moving forward.