ST. CLOUD -- There is a primary election for Stearns County Commissioner in District 4. One of the three men running is longtime incumbent Leigh Lenzmeier.

He says the county issues are more challenging now than they used to be, but he says he enjoys all of the changes.

The county, like most other forms of government, will be dealing with a budget deficit in the coming year due to COVID-19, however, Lenzmeier says the county hasn't been hit as hard as cities.

For example, Stearns County does not depend significantly on sales taxes.  Other units of government that depend on that have been greatly impacted because of the reduction of those types of activities.  By the very structure of Stearns County, we haven't been hit bad so far.

Lenzmeier says Stearns County is down about 50 positions for the year and hasn't been filling open positions when someone retires or leaves.

He says for the county government you don't notice the services it provides until they are not there.

He says the most visible accomplishment since his time in office is the growth in the county's park system. With the creation of the Regional Airport Authority, he sees great potential for the St. Cloud Regional Airport saying it was a mistake to focus on passenger service in the past.

We will definitely be looking for folks with a background on the corporate side and it may come to pass that the airport will become more of a freight hub, more of an air service hub.

Lenzmeier says the key will be putting together an expert team that knows the airport industry. Another potential growth area at the airport is the rental hangars. Right now they are all full with a waiting list for more tenants. He says as a whole the airport has been underutilized for years.

He says although he headed the Northstar Corridor Authority for six years, he says the commuter rail line as becoming less vital in the future with the growth of high-speed internet access and more people having the ability to work from home.

Times have changed and I don't see the benefit of Northstar being as significant as it was in the past, you don't have to be there to get the job done.

In recent years there has been a renewed push in the State Legislature to get more funding to extend the Northstar Commuter Rail line from Big Lake up to St. Cloud.

This week we are hearing from all three of the candidates running for Stearns County Commissioner in District 4. Absentee voting is going on right now for the August 11th primary election. The two men with the most votes will move on to the general election in November.

District 4 includes southeast St. Cloud, St. Augusta, Lynden Township, and Fair Haven Township.

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