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Election 2012: Soil & Water, Minneapolis

October 17th, 2012 (09:33 pm)


Let me note that information on the Soil & Water people was even harder to come by this year than it usually is. In prior years there was a questionnaire that at least a handful of candidates would respond to; I searched this year and found absolutely nothing. Moreover, I attempted to contact several candidates and got no response at all. In fact, there's one that's an incumbent. You would think he'd have an e-mail address associated with his office, but you'd be wrong.

If you google "Hennepin County bicycle advisory committee," you find this page, which lists names and has an e-mail address and phone number to contact. You'll also find their meeting minutes. This isn't an elected board; the county has a bunch of citizen advisory boards and you can volunteer to serve on them. One of them is the Bicycle Advisory Committee. There's also

If you google "Hennepin County soil and water supervisors" you find a bunch of sites that promise election info (but don't actually have anything beyond a list of filings) and the Fraters Libertas endorsements from two years ago. If you go to page two? You find MY endorsements from two years ago.

So here is a note to whomever wins: look, step up. If you hold elected office, people should be able to contact you. When I googled for Haefs, who's an incumbent, I at least found the web page that should have popped up for my prior search but there's no way to contact any of you. You are elected officials, for crying out loud. I do not expect you to carry a cell phone around the clock like that legislative candidate in St. Paul promised to do; all I want is an e-mail address. That's really not asking for much. (Also, there's no excuse for the fact that searching for "soil and water supervisor" doesn't bring me to your page.)


There are three contested races.

Brian T. Peterson
Marjorie Holsten

I know nothing about Brian Peterson, but Marjorie Holsten is a Tea Partier. So I'll take my chances on Brian.

Jeremy Haefs
Eleonore Wesserle

I am endorsing Eleonore Wesserle. Haefs is endorsed by Republicans (who apparently were able to find more information about him than I was) (SEE UPDATE BELOW about the Republican thing.) Eleonore works for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, which sounds like relevant experience, and she volunteers for the Heart of the Beast Theater Mayday Parade, which automatically makes her cool.

She did not respond to the e-mail I sent her through the contact link on the website I linked to. However, I'm not 100% sure that the form actually worked.

I was not able to find any information on contacting Haefs anywhere at all, other than his street address and phone number, which was included in the filing. He's mentioned in the meeting minutes starting with his appointment in June, but the minutes are filled with untranslated acronyms and I was unable to get any sense from these minutes what sorts of positions he holds on anything.

Elected official with no way to contact by e-mail, AND he's endorsed by the Republicans. That's two strikes one definite strike against him, so I'm going to vote for Eleonore unless someone gives me information I didn't have before.

UPDATE 10/22. I got an e-mail today from a Republican who had spotted this post and wanted to correct my impression that (a) they had endorsed Haefs, and (b) they had more information on Haefs than I did.

The SD-48 Sample Ballot (which I'd found googling) is divided into two sections (and I totally failed to notice this) -- there are endorsements (Mitt Romney and on down) but also a section of "recommendations," which were the result of researching information on the candidates and picking the one that seemed like the best fit for their constituency. Haefs was a recommendation, not an endorsement.

You know how I said, "I know nothing about Brian Peterson, but Marjorie Holsten is a Tea Partier. So I'll take my chances on Brian"? Apparently they had exercised pretty much the exact same thought process in reverse regarding Wesserle vs Haefs. They knew nothing about Haefs, but Wesserle was clearly not their cup of (organic fair trade) tea, so they recommended Haefs.

And fair enough! So that leaves me with two candidates, one of whom is the incumbent but has no contact information anywhere, and one of whom is running for office and does have contact information but doesn't respond to her e-mail messages.

I'm probably still going to vote for Wesserle, but frankly, I'm really not happy voting for either.

Andrew K. Moller
Richard B. Strong

Strong is a sustainability professor at the University of Minnesota and replied promptly to my e-mail, the only candidate to do so. I found an Andrew K. Moller on Twitter, and registered for Twitter so that I could Tweet at him and attempt to get in touch with him that way, but he didn't reply.

So I am going to vote for Strong.

Although I will note something else, which is that apparently the legislature has several times considered legislation to just dissolve the board entirely and hand its duties over to the County Board. (Here's a PDF of the Conservation District board's statement arguing against this.) They say that a citizen board, especially an elected citizen board, provides transparency. Except guys, you're incredibly difficult to find on the web and there's no way to e-mail you. Moreover, let's revisit my endorsements in 2008 and 2010 and then look again at that list of board members.

District 1 is currently represented by Jeremy Haefs. He was appointed in June or July of this year.

District 2 is represented by Erik Cedarleaf Dahl, who is the Chair. He was appointed to the board in 2012 (and apparently his term ends in 2014; I'm not sure why he's not up for election this cycle).

District 3 is vacant. I'm not sure how long this has been true. It appears that Amber Collette was on the board and then at some point in the summer stopped being on the board, but I'm not sure if that was her seat. She actually ran for District 2, lost, but wound up appointed and on the board anyway at some point.

District 4 is represented by Richard Strong, who was appointed to the board in 2012.

District 5 is represented by Jeffrey Beck, who alone of all the board members was elected, in 2008. His term ends this year and he is not running for re-election (the guy in that district is running unopposed.)

I don't know why this is an elected board, but in any case, the elective nature of this board is entirely theoretical. I'm not convinced that they need to exist at all and this can't be handled by the Hennepin County Commissioners. Given that, I should probably go ahead and vote for the Tea Partier, because she's probably running for it to try to get rid of it (they DO cost money -- everyone gets a $50 stipend per meeting). But I loathe the Tea Party movement so thoroughly that I'm unwilling to give a Tea Party politician even the tiny shred of credibility offered by holding this particular elected office.

If she really wants to do the job, though, she can stick around, and within two months there'll be a vacant seat and she'll be able to get appointed, because that just seems to be how it works.

UPDATE 11/2/12: This race was covered in the Star Tribune voter's guide! Also, Wesserle e-mailed me back. You can get the scoop in a separate post, here.


Posted by: jiawen (jiawen)
Posted at: October 18th, 2012 03:41 pm (UTC)

Thank you for all this research. I'll buy you a meal sometime; all this journalism work (and that's what you're doing -- this is stuff worthy of a good newspaper) should get you some reward.

Edited at 2012-10-18 03:42 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2012 02:52 am (UTC)

Eh, I take great satisfaction from my tiny empire of extremely narrow influence.

If only those Soil & Water people realized that they needed to court me, I would find it so much easier to get information on them.

Posted by: limnogeologist (limnogeologist)
Posted at: October 20th, 2012 12:46 am (UTC)

I know Eleonore Wesserle (Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor District 1). I worked with her in a lab at the U. She is indeed cool; she is also a good scientist, a progressive, and a very kind and responsible human being.

Posted by: rosephile (rosephile)
Posted at: October 20th, 2012 01:18 am (UTC)
luke binocs halloween!

Nice to hear--you just doubled or tripled my 'knowledge' of her. XD

Posted by: ecological and from wisconsin = (ecosconnie)
Posted at: November 5th, 2012 05:34 pm (UTC)
creme brulee

Hello! This is Eleonore! Thanks so much for the endorsement! I'm not sure which of the very lovely LRC folks you are, but I really appreciate the kind words and your support. :)

Posted by: rosephile (rosephile)
Posted at: October 20th, 2012 01:15 am (UTC)
luke binocs halloween!

Hooray, you helped me in a past election! I'm just going to friend you so I don't have to just stumble onto your election research posts once in a while. Thanks for taking the time to post these.

re: District 1, argh, can't find aaaanything on Haefs. [Am here via google link when searching for him.] Wesserle has a twitter (@ewesserle), but she hasn't mentioned her candidacy on it.

[later] Okay, can't find much of anything on any of these peeps. Is it really too much to ask for them to put out a couple paragraphs somewhere?

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2012 02:53 am (UTC)

I KNOW. Like, a single statement somewhere saying, "I am running for Soil & Water supervisor; here's why!" and a sentence or two about why they're interested? That really is NOT asking for much.

Posted by: peepsgrams (peepsgrams)
Posted at: October 22nd, 2012 07:51 pm (UTC)

Hi I started an account to just say thanks for your hard work.
(my soap box) I agree it's a pain in the neck trying to get infor on some of these folks. When I went to vote in the primary we had a discussion about how one person came to vote and when they found out it was not for the Office of President of the US decided they were not interested in voiting until Nov. It is so comfortable here in the U.S. that folks have gotten to the point they don't feel the need to get to know about every one that is running for any public office. When added to that, how difficult it is to find information on who is running it just gets to the point we are now. I was annoyed that even with the web at my disposial, it's taken so long just to find simple bios.
anyway, thanks again
best reagards

Posted by: torie20md (torie20md)
Posted at: October 22nd, 2012 09:28 pm (UTC)

This was really helpful. I have been looking everywhere for info on these people.

Posted by: lauras567 (lauras567)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2012 01:14 am (UTC)

Thank you so much for this info. Even the MASWCD website has nothing on the candidates. I did find Brian Peterson's email address on MinnPost: brian.peterson@compucom.com From there I went to LinkedIn and found his profile, since you can see he works at Compucom. Unfortunately, there's absolutely nothing in his profile that refers to the election. Very frustrating.

Posted by: IvoryChopsticks (ivorychopsticks)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2012 08:54 pm (UTC)

Thanks for your hard work! I have spent the afternoon looking for information as well, and here is a handy compilation. I only believe in voting for people who I actually want in office, and don't vote in uncontested races where I don't like the candidate. But try to find out information about uncontested judges. At least some of their information in out there. Cheers and thanks again!

Posted by: k w (k w)
Posted at: October 26th, 2012 08:25 pm (UTC)

I'm trying to the same research and thank you for your comments. I agree with everything you say. My husband is a respectable attorney and says to just vote for all the incumbent judges. That's another place where there's no info. He looked over the ballot and didn't see anything controversial so I'll go with his advice.

Posted by: molyi (molyi)
Posted at: October 27th, 2012 12:50 pm (UTC)

I would also like to thank you for your research. As yet I have nothing to add but hope to get something more before the election. I am smiling while I reflect that this is the first place this election cycle where I have seen an endorsement for the termination of a governing body. My experience tells me that accountability must be forced if it ever to be. The last thing most (all?) politicians want today is for anyone to know what they intend to represent. I take a more radical position than most and endorse the wholesale removal from office of all incumbents with a new mandate to allow no political contributions from any interest beyond one individual's own (with a dollar limit) and to ban all lobbying and/or political fundraising organizations. (I realize my minority status and so I do temper my insanity with pragmatism.) I have worked on many campaigns and have met only two politicians at the local and state level who were working for their constiuency. None at the federal level.

Posted by: Mike (schmidty)
Posted at: October 30th, 2012 03:11 am (UTC)
fresh from the salvador

I, too, am thankful for your research. My wife and I have been searching for info on these candidates, along with some others you reviewed, and your blog is one of the only places that has any kind of information. Our efforts did not go so far as tweeting at people (we are not tweeters), so thanks for that effort as well. (I was willing to unearth this ancient account, but no more.) It makes me wonder how hard it is to respond to the LWV questions for the website where every other website redirects.

Posted by: Jean Hartman Strande (Jean Hartman Strande)
Posted at: November 4th, 2012 08:48 pm (UTC)

Here's the info I can find on Brian Peterson...He also has a FB page but its not very helpful. At least I was able to complain to him about not having a webpage.

Brian Peterson

Office: Hennepin County Soil and water supervisor Seat 3

Incumbent: No

City of residence: Plymouth

Background: Network engineer; B.S. in management information systems, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire; homeowner; recreational home remodeler; outdoorsman; outdoor recreation enthusiast; conservationist; recreation volunteer; Three Rivers Park District supporter; grew up on family farm in central Wisconsin.

Endorsements: Not seeking endorsements.

Most important issue: One in five Minnesotans lives in Hennepin County. We share this densely populated space with more than 330 lakes and wetlands, and 11 major watersheds. In no other county is the preservation of our water quality, wildlife habitat and soil so crucial. With one seat left open in the previous election, it is clear that our county is in need of increased representation on this board. As a representative, I will advocate that the implementation of policies and projects will maximally benefit not only the longevity of our waters and public lands, but also our tax base and property values.

Posted by: emma (bymyelf)
Posted at: November 5th, 2012 04:45 am (UTC)

I made my way here looking for info on Brian T. Peterson. ha.

I'm really not interested in voting for people that I know nothing about - I'd much rather not vote for that office. But Marjorie Holsten appears to not be on the side of conservation. At least in my five minutes of research thus far. I should have started this weeks ago...

Posted by: danger d hotrod (dangerdhotrod)
Posted at: November 5th, 2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
robot face

Thanks so much for this information! I have spent way too much time searching for this online just like the last election. I'm all for getting rid of this board if the currently elected people can't find the time to get a minimum of information online, it makes a bad impression and makes it seem like they're probably not doing too much in general.

Posted by: Patricia Good (Patricia Good)
Posted at: November 5th, 2012 08:45 pm (UTC)

Thank you for doing all this research!

Posted by: Danika Zabertini (Danika Zabertini)
Posted at: November 6th, 2012 12:56 am (UTC)

seriously! thanks a million. who can we all send an e-mail to or open letter to try to change this information desert next time around?

Posted by: sconnaire618 (sconnaire618)
Posted at: November 6th, 2012 03:13 am (UTC)

I just signed up for a LiveJournal account to say THANK YOU!!!!!!! I read all those surveys as well in previous elections but had come up with next-to nothing for the Soil and Water Conservation folks this time around. (the night before the election, no less!)

The time you spent writing this out is very appreciated.

Posted by: Jessie Edminster Lawson (Jessie Edminster Lawson)
Posted at: November 6th, 2012 02:44 pm (UTC)

Thanks so much! You saved three voters with this information (and I did look at your other posts as well). Great work--too bad the candidates are so unrevealing in their statements and (non-)communications.

Posted by: Billhelm (billhelm)
Posted at: November 6th, 2012 05:56 pm (UTC)
New Recent

I wish I would have seen this yesterday. At any rate, thanks for the good work.

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