2022 Dakota County Commissioner election featuring Joe Atkins and Jimmy Francis

2022 Dakota County Commissioner Election: Finances

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In Dakota County, the District 2 county commissioner—representing West St. Paul, South St. Paul, and parts of Inver Grove Heights—is on the ballot this year. We’ve asked the candidates a series of questions to see where they stand on the issues. We’ll share one question and the responses at a time leading up to the general election on November 8. See our 2022 voter’s guide for more.

Previously we asked about public safetyroadslibrariesparks, and elections. This time we’re asking about county finances.

Dakota County is known for operating without debt and minimizing property tax increases. What do you think of those fiscal policies? Would you support continuing them—why or why not?

Here are the candidates’ responses:

Joe Atkins

(campaign site)

During my six years on the Dakota County Board, we paid off all county debt, making us one of the only counties in the nation with zero debt. We also earned the nation’s top awards for public safety and public health, out of over 3,000 counties nationwide.

Being debt-free saves Dakota County millions of dollars in interest every year, freeing up funds to provide excellent service in areas like public safety, roads, parks and libraries, while also holding down county property taxes. In fact, Dakota County is now Minnesota’s lowest-taxed county, with the lowest county property taxes per person of any of the state’s 87 counties.

Being debt-free with the lowest county taxes in Minnesota is a credit to sound financial management, productive employees, and hundreds of committed volunteers, who helped us deliver outstanding service while also saving county taxpayers $670,000 in 2021 alone. I support this smart, sustainable approach to fiscal management, and will continue to do so for as long as I am on the County Board.

Jimmy Francis

(campaign site)

These policies were good and have brought us to where we are today, but it would be misleading to think this was all accomplished in the past six years. This debt-free status has taken years to accomplish, with a lot of credit going to the former commissioners who created and followed through with this policy. In today’s world, I would ask two clarifying questions when it comes to celebrating our debt-free status; what are we going without and when is the rainy-day fund going to be used? Because many residents believe it’s raining out, if not pouring, right now when it comes to county staffing and investments in the mental health of both the county staff and the community. We cannot sit back and wait! Dakota County cannot continue to give staff 1% salary increases and expect no turnover. County leaders should not expect departments to go without support any longer. The mental wellness of staff may not have been considered when making these policies, especially when today’s workload seems to be ever-growing. Investment in county staff will be an area I can get behind and even change policy to accomplish. Thoughtful investments and leveraging the no debt status to attract private development to invest in Dakota County would be a priority when I am elected. 

Vote on November 8

The general election is on Tuesday, November 8. Learn more about where and how to vote. You can also vote early with an absentee ballot, either by mail or by stopping at the Dakota County offices.

See our 2022 voter’s guide for more on the candidates and other races.

Thank you to the candidates for taking the time to respond to our questions.

This local election coverage only happens thanks to the support of our members. Consider joining West St. Paul Reader to ensure local election coverage continues. Membership starts at just $3 per month.

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