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HomeNewsGet To Know The Lake County District 1 County Commissioner Candidates

Get To Know The Lake County District 1 County Commissioner Candidates

The Lake County Board of Commissioners is comprised of five elected commissioners (one from each district), each serving staggered terms. The Commissioners duties are to oversee the operation and cost of services provided to communities and the residents of Lake County. Upon the passing of Lake County Commission­er Pete Walsh, the District 1 seat has remained open. The August 8th election will decide who will continue on to the general election in No­vember.

Over the past several weeks, we have asked can­didates for the District 1 County Commissioner seat to give their prospective constituents some information about themselves. Each candidate responded to the following questions. Their re­sponses are presented here in their own words:

1. Tell us about your background. What would you like people to know about you?

2. What, in your opinion, are the most important qualities for a person serving on the County


3. What interests you about being on the board and what would your priorities be if elected?

4. What concerns do you have about issues fac­ing Lake County?

5. Anything else you’d like to add?

Joe Baltich:

I have a degree in business from UMD and have deep roots in the tourism industry in Fall Lake Township for over 40 years. I understand what it takes to run a service and retail operation from all aspects and have a lot of respect for small business owners. I have also had considerable exposure to politics having been mayor of Ely in the distant past. Politics then are still politics today. Over more recent years, I have developed and maintained legislative contacts at both Min­nesota and Washington, DC. If I can’t find an answer on my own, I may know someone who can help.

I think honest, congenial determination with the ability to discuss broad topics in depth, plus hu­mility is needed for any leadership position. One must also have the strength to be able to correct his or her course in the presence of new, more accurate information if that is the right thing to do. Despite potentially losing face, a good lead­er is able to change his or her vote and accept it. I have no use for wishy-washy fence sitting, however, and I am not one to be intimidated.

My interest in having a seat at the board lies in my desire to find and implement ways to improve all of our lives as county residents.

Complete District Representation – When talking to people from the southern part of the county, their reference to Fall Lake often sounds a bit like an afterthought. “Oh, WAY up at Fall Lake”. It’s been that way my entire life. It’s important to me that the entire district be represented equally at the table from Fall Lake to Silver Bay. I will admit that the remote traveling distance of Dis­trict 1 is a lot like representing the vastness of Montana but I intend to make myself more avail­able to everyone in my District. I will use differ­ent ways with social media being one of them. After I leave a county meeting, I will report my experience and an overview of agenda issues in social media and from my perspective. Obvious­ly, I will report only whatever I am legally al­lowed to, or is appropriate to report. Reporting makes the job a bigger task for me, but it’s the right thing to do especially since the technol­ogy is available. You might have a question, a concern, or an opinion. I should be able to hear them and respond.

Broadband installation completion – We don’t have it on the Fernberg road and I assume the same for other parts of the county. The optic fi­ber line is hanging dead on all the power poles. Why? If we are going to increase our stagnant economy, everybody in the county should have the same access to services whenever possible. I want to see if it is possible and then correct it. I have no idea what that entails, but will find out if elected.

Public safety imperative – As a commissioner, I need to make sure that fire, law enforcement and ambulance service are available in an effective capacity. We have good people in these positions and I will work to see that their services contin­ue. This will be no small task because there are significant challenges coming up.

Industries of full time employment – For exam­ple, the U.S. Forest Service and state and local governments are constantly dealing with fire threats. There is a new industry process called Biochar (pyrolyzed wood charcoal) that is just developing in Minnesota that could reduce wood-fuel overgrowth while producing a car­bon-locked, wood-based product that can be sold to several different industries such as ag, health, and municipalities to name just a few. We could kill three birds with one stone by provid­ing more timber industry jobs resulting in man­aged fire abatement plus opening up some areas to outdoor recreation including hiking, hunting, fishing, etc. This is an easily renewable resource as well. There may even be possibilities of feder­al funding for an incubator project such as this to get it started. We should research any indus­try options that might fit our county. We need to grow because all of us old people want to retire some day.

Recreation – Can Lake County become more in­volved in outdoor recreation that is accessible to more people? Tight budgets mean recreational opportunities are always low on the list, but I am an advocate of “going outside to play”. The internet is a wonderful thing, but our kids (and adults) need to be able to get out and go beyond their backyards. Our tourism industry needs some new trails to walk and at very least, people thinking along these lines should an opportuni­ty present itself. To grow a population, a coun­ty needs something for people to do other than paddle a canoe only in the BWCA (which dom­inates one third of Lake County). Some great trails have already been completed for motor­ized adventure, but we also need more hunting trails that are maintained for foot travel.

Lake County has an aging populace with stag­nant population growth. Meanwhile taxes con­tinue to increase. How do we increase popula­tion to spread out the tax load while maintaining critical services? Also, along the lines of lower­ing property taxes, is anyone from Lake Coun­ty at the state level demanding this to occur? I prefer that the county be our mediator/defender against state oversight and control instead of their collaborator.

I want to be able to continue to live in my home and not be forced out due to property taxes and I am not alone. I also want to ensure that we maintain public safety in law enforcement, fire and ambulance services. This is a big county with a spread-out populace. We need to explore more options to decrease the tax burden while maintaining services. If we don’t, we will see a further decrease in population and our individu­al taxes will go up.

We really need to finish broadband throughout the county. If we are going to attract a grow­ing populace, reliable connectivity and compe­tition among service suppliers is quite import­ant. People work from home with broadband. A forward-moving county will work to increase overall affordability of living along with today’s necessary accouterments such as broadband available to everybody who wants/needs it. Again, none of this is a small task, but it does need to be examined and pushed in my opinion.

I have dedicated many years of my 62 to public service thus far. I’m very approachable, I like to joke, and have broad shoulders. I’m not easily swayed and have never been known to be wishy-washy. I’m a fiscal conservative and I despise leaving the lights on and letting the truck idle for hours (without purpose) because “it’s not MY money” OR “Well, it IS in the budget.”. My feeling is that while we can’t live without it, we CAN live with less government and do just fine. Meanwhile, if there is funding capital being tossed around by state or federal agencies, we, as a county, should compete hard for it.

If elected I will stand up for my entire district, from Fall Lake to Silver Bay and the entire coun­ty as well. It’s a lot of miles to travel and I am willing to do it for the benefit of us all. I would appreciate your vote this August 8.

Mark Haarman:

Ms. Emily Stember, my great aunt, was an el­ementary teacher then principal for 40 years living in Ely. Her brother, Louis owned Stember Jewelry on Sheridan Street and on her deathbed, my mother confirmed I was likely conceived here in Ely when I jokingly asked one final time.

My first canoe trip in 1960, was 16 days with boys aged 10~15 and 3 councilors. We started at the Fall Lake entry, into the Quetico; an edu­cation for troubled kids.

I Attended Ely Junior College.

I Ran the Kawishiwi River Company.

I enjoy acting and have been a professional ac­tor since 1981.

I Represented the U.S in the World Theatre Fes­tival in Monte Carlo.

I am a Buckthorn Logging Company and eradi­cation expert.

Current resident of Fall Lake Township since 1998

Three of the most important qualities of a Com­missioner must be to have integrity, common courtesy and the courage to do the right thing. Critical thinking and a nonjudgmental attitude aids in decision making, and volunteering self­lessly is really important.

Having a seat at the table and a say in what goes on here is the public service job I’m applying for. My first concern is meeting all the residents of District 1 in person or over the phone. My availability as a Commissioner would be 6 days a week, to help with anything, and I’m very good and qualified at most anything.

With the northern third of Lake County being entirely in the Boundary Waters, its ecological future is crucial. Working with Dr. Lee Frelich, director of Forest Ecology at the U of M and being an expert in fire research and invasives gives me the science behind ethical land man­agement practices. Our county is as historically iconic and beautiful as anywhere in America. It’s the most used federal wilderness area in the country. The issues that have surfaced since the pandemic, are what you as voters want your rep­resentative to know and then address, from Fall Lake to Lake Superior.

With professional training in stage acting, film work, being accepted at the Actor’s Studio in N.Y and trained in listening skills, forest firefighting, first responder training, law enforcement crisis training, fund development, having been a log­ger in Montana, Vermont and MN, with over 100 trips into the Quetico-Superior, in keeping with Pete Walsh’s sense of humor and tenacity in pur­pose, perhaps he would endorse me for his past position, as I hope you will.

Politics is sometimes the business of public af­fairs for private advantage. Likely the first jobs offered were in commercial fishing on Basswood Lake. But also, recall who lived in the region long before European boats paddled here. Who was eventually forced to leave their land and dwellings, by force, and who and what forced them to leave in the 1800’s? Lake County histo­rians know. Greed in the natural resources, insa­tiable European appetites for fur, then the gold rush and timber slaughter evolved into what we witness today. We have less than one half of one percent of the iconic white pine remaining. We also have a tinderbox ranked high as anywhere on the planet. The streets of ours, dirt roads, log­ging trails snaking through rough terrain and railroad beds are eroding away. What our part of Lake County will look like for generations to come is up to us. There are many jobs to evolve in the ethical management of our forests, via sawmills and firewood sales, biomass produc­tion. The natural world is our best commodity. Tourism is very profitable. Events of fundrais­ing have become popular. Our community at its finest is there volunteering. Creative artists are manufacturing the products from bird feeders to food trucks, picnic tables to fire pits. There are hundreds of jobs in restoration forestry so let’s “Make no small plans, as they don’t have the magic to stir men’s blood.” Please vote Aug 8 in our primary election for Mark Haarman in District 1, your seat at the table.

Paul Hartshorn:

I am a lifelong resident of Lake County. As a child, I grew up in a logging camp near the Boundary Waters and graduated from William Kelly High School in Silver Bay. After serving in the military, I made my home in Finland, MN. I worked for Reserve Mining, LTV Steel Mining, and ended my working career with Millwright Local 1348 out of Virginia, MN. I spent 4 years in the U.S. Navy, was married for 41+ years and have been a widower since 2020. I raised two sons, one of whom passed in 2013, and I raised two granddaughters, the youngest of whom just graduated this year.

An effective county commissioner must be a people person and must be able to listen and communicate. A commissioner must follow up on people’s concerns and make decisions with their constituents in mind, not just on their own thoughts. Be a leader!

I want to serve the people of Lake County. My priorities will be law enforcement (which I feel is good), the rescue squad, fire departments, so­cial services and mental health. The county also has a need for housing. Tourism is also import­ant because a lot of people make their living off tourism.

Waste management is a concern. The Moccasin Mike landfill will be closed in a few years and waste prices will be increasing. Housing for the elderly has to be dealt with as our population is getting older. Higher taxes and fixed income do not mix well!

I am proud to say I have a long history of serving the community. I have been on the Crystal Bay Town Board since 2006 and served as chairman of the Lake/Cook County Township Association. I also serve on the East Lake Clinic Board and volunteer with the veterans at the Silver Bay Vet­erans Home.

Steve Marolt:

I was born on the Iron Range and have lived in Lake County since 1994 where I started a family with my wife Cheryl who was born and raised in Silver Bay. We have two grown children. I was a navy nuclear electrician, where I operated and maintained a Naval nuclear reactor and steam plant. While serving in the Navy, I was deployed during the Persian Gulf War. I retired a few years ago and have the time to dedicate to the board and serve You, the people.

My interest in being on the board is: Being able to SERVE the people once again, this time for District 1 and all of Lake County. Priorities would be looking into and getting property taxes under control and helping the Fall Lake area of the district with the issue of schooling and rep­resentation. Both will need help from our legis­lators who I will work diligently with to look for a solution.

The person elected should be a good LISTEN­ER, have strong values, be a leader and be able to make hard decisions that aren’t always pop­ular but are best for the county in the long run.

Rising taxes and an increase in overall cost of running the county due to the increase in infla­tion.

If elected, I want to hear from the voters and get more people involved so that we have better per­spectives and so we can have great discussions on how to make Lake County better.

Jack Nelson:


Born and raised in Lake county.

Graduate of William Kelley High School.

Father of 7 kids and 10 Grandkids.

Business owner 30 plus years.

20 years employed at NSM.

Retired Finland fire volunteer after 23 years.

Former Crystal Bay Township Supervisor

NFIB, ACLT, NRA member


The process of governing itself is interesting.

Tax relief on property taxes and review the valu­ation process of that.

Review policies on the entitlements/mental health

Make Lake County more than just a tourist des­tination by promoting business.

Get spending under control throughout the county.


Understand what it takes to make the county run and work for all the people/taxpayer’s.

Be a guy the people can talk to about all con­cerns.


High property taxes

Excessive spending/out of control budgets

Road maintenance/Operators pay/Lack of work­ers

Federal and State dollars that flow into the county with too many strings.

Permitting issues.


My family, which includes 2 former commission­ers, have a long history of being involved in the county and community functions here.

I believe in the commonsense approach to life and believe WE are blessed to be living in such a wonderful place.

ACTIONS speak louder than WORDS.

Colby Abazs:

I was born and raised right here in Finland MN. Throughout my travels, I visited so many amaz­ing places and met wonderful people and thriv­ing communities, but there is something special we have here in the woods of Northern Minneso­ta that always drew me back home. Having now settled down back on the family farmstead in the Sawtooth Mountains along the north shore of Lake Superior, I want to support our community continuing to thrive.

I think the most important qualities to be an ef­fective public servant are to be actively engaged in the community and constantly listening to residents so that I can make informed decisions about what matters. It is also incredibly import­ant to consider both the short term and long term impacts of all decisions to make sure the county is proactively supporting a thriving community into the future.

I love the North Shore of Lake Superior and the vibrant community we have. Through serving as Lake County Commissioner I will be able to sup­port our community to continue to thrive. Ad­dressing the housing shortage is a high priority of mine as well as ensuring future generations can continue to enjoy the clean air, water, and forests that fuel our spirits and economy.

I think housing is a really big and urgent issue facing Lake County. It is unacceptable that res­idents are being priced out of homes they have lived in for generations. It is a challenging prob­lem to address since market and state factors limit the options available to the county. I intend to search out creative ways to improve the situ­ation. Another housing issue facing the county is the shortage of workforce housing so that the many folks who want to join our community and fill the much needed available jobs can have a place to live. Lake County is an important part­ner to collaborate on housing projects that are in the interest and character of our community.

I am excited for this opportunity to serve my wonderful community and provide some fresh energy into our local government for a thriving present and future.

The Primary election will be held on Tuesday, August 8, 2023. Don’t miss the opportunity to make your voice heard.

Rick Evans
Rick Evans
My wife, Marsha Kinzer (a proud DEHS Greyhound, class of ‘77) introduced me to the North Shore on vacation in 2012. It became our regular escape when the stress of our careers in education became overwhelming, and it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the breathtaking scenery, the nice people, and “salad” containing Jell-o and marshmallows. So you can either blame or thank my loving wife for my being here, because when we needed to choose a retirement hometown, Marsha advocated hard for her beloved Duluth, and here we are, six months later. Yes, this will be my first northern Minnesota winter. Yes, I welcome thoughts and prayers. Government, public policy, and social justice weighed heavily in the curriculums I taught at the high school level over a thirty-eight year career. In addition, we were a laboratory school focused on critical thinking in conjunction with technical and scientific writing. So when I found myself adrift on the great ocean of retirement and spied a raft, I jumped at the chance to take up what I’d left behind…minus the bad teachers’ lounge coffee. My position at the NSJ allows me to combine my passions for government and writing, and it’s helping me to feel less out of touch in new surroundings. When I’m not being “Cubby” (Marsha’s favorite new nickname for this green reporter) I enjoy pointing at eagles and saying, “Look, honey. There’s an eagle.” I’ve had an active side hustle as a professional musician for almost as many years as Charlie Parr. As a guitarist/singer/songwriter, I graced the stages of clubs and festivals around southern Wisconsin, including an appearance on A Prairie Home Companion. Should I even mention A Prairie Home Companion, or am I the only one here old enough to remember what that is? Look! An eagle!
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