Mary Ryan - Dent
Occupation, work experience: My career has been a blend of private and public sector experience. I worked for ten and a half years in radio sales and sales management, and for the past twelve years I have been in custom training for Minnesota Sta...
Occupation, work experience: My career has been a blend of private and public sector experience. I worked for ten and a half years in radio sales and sales management, and for the past twelve years I have been in custom training for Minnesota State Community and Technical College. That translates into a lot of communication with the region's businesses; it has given me a great deal of experience in forming partnerships, and devising effective business and workforce solutions.
Brief Biography: I am a lifelong resident of Otter Tail County. Born and raised on a dairy farm in Inman Township, even when I went off to college, I kept my residence and came home to vote. My B.S. is in Horticulture from the University of Minnesota. I have spent the last 21 years and have raised my son in Dora Township. I am past Vice President of MinnDak Manufacturer's Association, a member of TriState Manufacturer's Association, past Chair and a ten-year member of the Labor Force Development Council, twice past President of Otter Tail County COLA (Coalition of Lake Associations) and am currently a board member of the Silent Lakes Association.
What do you feel are the county's top priorities or objectives at this time?
The changing demographics in Otter Tail County will require new strategies, not only for "Smart Growth" in handling development, but in providing services for an estimated 15 to 20% population growth by the end of the next decade. Fulfilling the board's mission statement will require careful examination of how the county does business; all systems must be evaluated and improved. The county will need to be proactive, rather than reactive, in every aspect of county government. One immediate area to look at is the county's rate of return on its interest earnings; we currently rank 79 out of 87 counties in the state. Additionally, I continue to hear from businesses how much they need skilled workers. I see a benefit in the county getting involved with the private sector and education, both K-12 and higher education, to develop workforce strategies; it will take all of us working together to keep our kids educated and living and working in Otter Tail County.
What, if any, concerns do you have with the county now, and what ideas would you bring to the table as a county commissioner?
The county has kept us remarkably safe over the years, and day to day, services seem to just keep humming along. Most people seem pretty happy with the county in general and grateful for our quality of life. We all see changes, though, that cause us concern.
The ultimate test of effectiveness in maintaining services will be how the county deals with the population growth we are experiencing. It is a mixed blessing. While an increase in the property tax base is always welcome, the demographic shift is for less, not more kids in our schools, and less, not more qualified workers in the skilled fields, especially healthcare and the trades. Increasing property values are great if you are selling, not so great if you are a long time resident concerned about getting taxed off your property. In talking to property owners, especially family resort owners, this is a very real concern.
By implementing Smart Growth, a principled, common-sense approach to keeping the county's resources safe, we can protect our ground and surface water and the natural resources that are drawing new residents to the region in the first place.
I would like to see all county residents more involved in the decision-making process with more information back and forth between the board, the townships, and the residents. In listening to people around the region, it is a wish shared by many, particularly township government representatives. I look forward to working together to make it happen.