For the last eight years, Charlie Borrell has been an outspoken proponent of the “little guy” – residents who pay their taxes, obey the laws and basically want government to leave them alone. He was a Wright County farmer whose foray into county politics was almost a form of sabotage. The only way to keep the county board in check was to infiltrate it himself.
What got him interested in being on the county board was a departure from most who have sought the office. He wanted to get on the inside to limit the power of government over the little guy.
“To be honest, I ran for county commissioner to try to create less government,” Borrell said. “I just wanted government out of my life. I didn’t want them to do any more than they had to. I didn’t like the overreach. I’ve always believed strongly in private property rights and I wanted to make sure that was upheld better.”
Over the last eight years, Borrell has been many things to many people. He’s been an advocate for constituents who didn’t feel their voices were being heard. He was a watchdog for spending as a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative. He’s represented township residents admirably on the Planning Commission. He has been an empathetic ear who could have his mind changed, but it would require a pretty persuasive argument.
He has been many things. But, one thing he’s never been is a politician – didn’t care for them and didn’t want to become one.
As he was running for his first term as county commissioner, he pledged that, if he was elected, he would self-impose a term limit.
“I was running against Leonard Wozniak when I ran the first time,” Borrell said. “Leonard said during the campaign that he would only run for two terms if he was elected. I agreed with him and thought it was a good idea. I don’t think you need to be a county commissioner for 25 years. I told him I would do the same. I never wrote it down, signed it or made a promise, but I did stick to it. I told people I’m not a real politician, I’m just a man of the people. If I were to go back on my word that way, then I would be a politician and would not be happy with myself.”
For all the things Borrell became infamous for during his time on the county board – and there were many – one that stood out was that he became the county commissioner most involved in the maintenance of county ditches. Like many counties in the state, Wright County has an extensive, but very antiquated, ditch system that drains much of the rural land of the county. The system is more than 100 years old and Borrell was lovingly crowned by his fellow commissioners “King of Ditches” because of his involvement.
For Borrell, it was a humorous title because his ditch knowledge was nonexistent prior to becoming a commissioner.
“When we were handing out the committee assignments, I got put on the Ditch Committee because my district had the most land area and a lot of the ditch systems,” Borrell said. “I actually thought they were talking about the ditches alongside roads. I had no idea that these systems ran though the county like they do. It was an education.”
Borrell has never lost his touch with the average Wright County resident, especially those in the farming community who keep seeing their property values rising with little to show for it in the way of additional services. Like Borrell, many of them want to just lead their lives and be left alone by government. Those people have had a champion in Borrell, who has always had their back and been willing to take up their cause.
“I’ve always fought for the little guy,” Borrell said. “A lot of times, people have issues with government and they don’t feel they have anyone on their side. I’ve tried to be that person they can reach out to and know they do have someone fighting for them.”
Borrell is going to be sorely missed around the Government Center for his sense of humor, kindhearted nature, common sense and willingness to fight if you dare to “poke the bear.”
He kept his pre-election promise and has retired after serving two terms and is looking forward to getting back to doing the things he enjoys. He has represented District 5 with eloquence, dignity and purpose and expressed his gratitude for those constituents that voted him in for two terms as county commissioner.
“I would sincerely like to thank the residents of my district and all of Wright County,” Borrell said. “I was treated so well by all of my constituents. Even when they disagreed with decisions the board made, it was always a good conversation. It was never anybody getting mad or yelling. I hope they know how much I appreciated that and how proud I was to be their voice on the county board.”