Kenneth Brown's 2017 Closing Remarks

Kenneth Brown, Olmsted County Chairperson

As my third time as Chairperson to the Olmsted County Board of Commissioners, I can say that 2017 has been a "significant year" and would like to highlight and summarize the changes that occurred. I would also like to thank the outstanding staff of Olmsted County. In closing, I would like to share a quote from James Madison:" The problem to be solved is, not what form of government is perfect, but which of the forms is least imperfect." I wish Sheila Kiscaden the best as the new Chairperson for the Olmsted County Board of Commissioners.

Significant Leadership Transitions:

  • Two new commissioners were welcomed onto this Board in January: Gregg Wright (District 3) and Mark Thein (District 7). 
  • Chief Financial Officer, Bob Bendzick, retired with over 33 years of service to Olmsted County; his successor is Wilfredo Román Cátala. 
  • Long-standing County Administrator, Richard Devlin, retired after 49 years of service; Heidi Welsch was selected as the next County Administrator, which was became effective on November 1st
  • We are currently in the process of implementing a reorganization of our departments into three main divisions, which is intended to align our services in a more collaborative and creative way.

Public Safety:

  • May 2nd marked the first year of Safety Screening at the Government Center; over 100,000 people have been screened; Over 1000 weapons were prevented from proceeding past the Second Floor of the Government Center. 
  • Body Worn Cameras rolled out to Patrol and Adult Detention Center personnel; positive reception by deputies and behavior modification effect noticed in detainees. With this technology, we have a more detailed picture of the challenges and situations our deputies and communities encounter. 
  • Olmsted County Drug Court (OCDC) celebrated its first graduation last month. The OCDC represents a collaborative effort of criminal justice stakeholders working together to break the cycle of substance abuse. The partners in the effort have a closer working union than is traditionally seen in criminal courts. 

Countywide Policy and Resolution Improvements:

  • Tobacco Free Grounds Policy adopted (May 1st); policy prohibits the use of tobacco products outside on Olmsted County grounds and inside County Buildings and vehicles.
  • One Olmsted Equity Resolution approved; equity addresses fairness or justice in the way people are treated. The County Board resolved: One Olmsted can only be realized with intentional health, social, and racial equity policies at its core for all publicly delivered services.

Environmental Stewardship:

  • Olmsted Waste-to-Energy Facility Milestone Anniversary celebrated. In its 30 years, the OWEF has turned more than two million tons of garbage into energy with steam. Through their work, the volume of waste that goes to a landfill is reduced by about 90%. 

Commitment to Push for Comprehensive Transportation Solutions:

  • Transportation Funding Tool adopted: ¼% Greater Minnesota Transportation Sales and Use Tax dedicated to the funding of area roads and bridges. 
  • 55th Street Extension and Broadway Reconstruction Project – after 25 years of planning, we celebrated in September the completion of Olmsted County's largest transportation project – ever.  No state or federal dollars were used. 

New Affordable Housing Initiative:

  • Through collaboration between Olmsted County Property Records and Licensing and Olmsted County Housing & Redevelopment Authority, a Tax-Forfeited Property Rehabilitation Program was created. Three eligible properties are being utilized to provide affordable housing for Olmsted County residents.

Planning for the Future:

  • Several Committee of the Whole discussions were held throughout the year.   Last month's "Services to Seniors in Olmsted County" and today's "2020 Census Overview" are two examples of topics designed to specifically inform us about the importance of planning for growing population and service needs.

Other Goal Accomplishments:

  • Retained our AAA Bond Rating; indicates we have an extremely strong capacity to meet our financial commitments;
  • Invest in Graham Park;
  • Worked on the One Watershed, One Plan for Southeast Minnesota;
  • Removed the old Oronoco Dam;
  • Continued plans for dredging Lake Zumbro; and
  • Continued to investigate and implement new technologies to enhance our productivity in all areas.