County-Wide Book Club

(published by the Pioneer Press)

I’d like to congratulate the Washington County Library Board for offering a new program called “One County – One Book” that will focus the community on a discussion of the importance of civility as outlined in Dr. P.M. Forni’s book, “Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct.”  Going through life rude and angry can make you sick.  Everyone can improve the quality of their lives and relationships by choosing to be more considerate, courteous and polite.  The goal is to inspire positive choices by citizens that result in respect, consideration and tolerance in daily interactions.

The program ended on April 21, 2009 with a community meeting and discussion hosted by the author at the R.H. Stafford Library in Woodbury.  Two hundred copies of the book are available at Washington County libraries.  The book goes beyond etiquette and offers strategies for success in the workplace, which may benefit job seekers.

Lisa WeikWashington County Commissioner, District 5 – Woodbury

County Commissioner duties are varied 

(as published in the Woodbury Bulletin 7/7/10)

With the arrival of warm summer weather, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with literally thousands of fellow Woodbury residents on a variety of topics. We live in a great city; civic pride was certainly reflected in our dialog. Unquestionably, the one subject that I’m asked to describe most often are the roles and responsibilities of a county commissioner. The duties of a county commissioner are varied and often involve meetings and discussions not obvious to constituents. To be as open and transparent as I can to my constituents, I regularly post my activities via the social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Below is a general explanation of my regular duties for taxpayers to have a better understanding of the process of county government.

The best known activities of a county commissioner are the public meetings held by the County Board. Residents are always welcome and encouraged to attend public meetings, such as those conducted by the Washington County Board of Commissioners. When they arrive at the weekly meeting in Stillwater, it is to find an agenda set out for the business at hand and a series of policy questions that need to be answered by the elected officials. But acting on that agenda and answering those questions are often the culmination of deliberation that occurred among advisory groups and joint powers boards, including publicly noticed workshops, which are also a part of a commissioners’ “to-do” list each week. While the elected members of the county board take official action during the board meetings, often the ground work and debate takes place during public workshops and citizen advisory committee meetings prior to official board action. 

Our tasks go beyond the hours we spend in our role meeting as a county board. In addition, commissioners are part of several joint powers groups; official bodies created by individual boards working together for a common goal across jurisdictions to meet state and federal mandates at reduced costs for taxpayers. Commissioners publicly share the information gathered and action taken by those bodies during board meetings.  The metro-wide commissions, such as the Metropolitan Emergency Services Board, the Solid Waste Coordinating Board and the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District board (MMCD), are governed by a board of elected county commissioners, each representing their respective county boards to set yearly budgets, develop policy and oversee district operations. Counties included in the MMCD are Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington. We have worked collaboratively as a board to reduce the MMCD budget for the past two years.  I am completing my second year representing Washington County on the full MMCD commission, while Commissioner Myra Peterson from District 4, serves as Chair on the Executive Committee this year.  

The county itself has about 20 advisory committees with at least one county commissioner who serves as liaison to the county board. In the case of the Law Library Board, I serve as a voting member of the group and advocate for services that benefit the taxpayer, such as the free Legal Advice Clinics coordinated by the Law Library for our residents. 

Lastly, county boards have little autonomy in what services we provide to our constituents; we are an administrative arm of both the state and federal governments. Most of our flexibility is in the amenity services provided by counties, such as parks and libraries.  However, Washington County has worked diligently for years to implement ways to cut department costs and find operational efficiencies resulting in streamlined delivery of high-quality core services at an affordable tax rate. As we collectively face unprecedented economic times, I remain confident in the skills, knowledge and dedication of my fellow board members as we work together to find cost-effective solutions for our taxpayers during what will likely be a challenging year of decision making. 

 Lisa WeikWashington County Commissioner, District 5 – Woodbury

Committed to Serving Constituents 

(as published in the Woodbury Bulletin 10/27/10)

The primary function of government is the health, safety and welfare of citizens, which is reflected in the county budget as the top two areas of spending are for Health and Human Services and Law Enforcement protection.  As I’ve canvassed my district, speaking with literally thousands of constituents this year, guarding the safety net (top examples include child protection and public safety), in spite of dramatic cuts to state and federal program aid, will become ‘job one’ of the county board as we work to bring a balanced budget forward in December. 

In light of the historic state budget deficit looming at a projected $5.8 billion, the primary task of all local elected officials may be to define a ‘new normal’ for the next biennium and beyond.  I would ask voters in District 5 for their support in the Nov. 2nd, general election as I pride myself on being a hard-working commissioner who thrives on public service and community involvement, always putting citizens first. 

I pledge to address the county’s fiscal health while meeting its obligations by adhering to sound financial management with a keen focus on core values, while keeping property taxes low.  Washington County is proud to be one of only 48 counties in the nation to hold a triple A bond rating, meaning the county may borrow capitol at lower rates at reduced costs for taxpayers.  Out of 87 counties in Minnesota we currently have the second lowest tax rate and per capita spending in the state. I advocate for regional delivery of county services where it makes sense but only with counties that match our low per capita cost for services.  We live in the best county in the state of Minnesota; I pledge to protect that heritage.

I am committed to keeping county spending under control through accountability, transparency, innovative reforms and collaboration.  As we continue to face unprecedented economic times, new public-private partnerships may offer solutions. No one entity can create jobs, which is critical for the health of our collective future. I feel our Twin Cities communities have a greater chance of success if we partner together to grow jobs.  

To that end I support a county contribution, based on population size, to a newly formed regional economic development entity (REDE), called the Itasca Jobs Task Force Project.  This exciting and progressive opportunity is not another expensive government program.  It offers concrete ideas in transportation planning, K-12 public education efforts and new ways to partner across sectors to create more living-wage jobs and dynamically grow commerce that will bring prosperity to our region, in spite of the faltering national economy.  

The Itasca Group will bring value and new synergies to elected officials who set policy and need the support of a broad-base consortium in order to halt the negative effects of the recession and to lessen the property tax burden in Washington County, while growing healthy communities.  I see the negative effects of the recession every day in my district; empty and foreclosed homes may bring blight.  They serve as a horrible warning and call to action that doing nothing to stop unemployment and high taxation can destroy our collective future.  

My many years of business experience and leadership skills developed in the medical device industry have been an asset to the county board and my community during my first two years in elected office.  For example, we recently partnered with city leaders to successfully complete the Dale properties open space acquisition involving Washington County and City of Woodbury Land and Water Legacy dollars.  My direct involvement contributed to preserving this beautiful natural resource for future generations of Woodbury and county residents.  

In conclusion, I continue to feel that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.  It’s a show of leadership to “know your limits” and chart a new course in operating paradigms.  We are living in interesting times but I see that as an opportunity for growth.  I’m the only candidate in this race to make a principled commitment to full-time service on the county board for another two year term, due to redistricting commissioner boundaries following the census results.  I go beyond the title of elected official and am a true public servant who is willing to work hard to make the best better for our citizens and taxpayers.

Lisa WeikWashington County Commissioner, District 5 – Woodbury

“Streamlining ahead in the ‘New Normal'” 

(as published in the Woodbury Bulletin 1/4/12)

A phrase you may hear in 2012 is “The New Normal”. It refers to shrinking budgets for all levels of government: global, national, state, city, county and schools. The sooner we accept and adjust to the “new normal” the more successful we will be as a state, a county and a city. Government must do things differently to still achieve the outcomes residents expect. 

On Dec. 6, 2011, we joined more than 40 city, county and school board leaders from across Metro Minnesota to participate in Eagan’s “Local Government Innovation Forum.” The focus: how entities can collaborate and streamline resources making local governments work better for all citizens. Participants also identified opportunities and potential barriers for implementation of new ideas in their own communities.

The event was one of six regional sessions held across Minnesota and was hosted by Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC), League of Minnesota Cities, and the Minnesota School Boards Association in partnership with Minnesota House Redesign Caucus and InCommons. Sessions were held in Rochester, Hibbing, Bemidji, Waite Park, Marshall and Eagan with support from the Bush Foundation and Beyond the Bottom Line.

Attendees were told to brainstorm as a group and then present a feasible solution to a current problem. The floodgates were opened and the ideas flowed freely; after all, most of us are facing similar issues. Our group analyzed how police work, social service administration and technology functions can be combined to cut costs, along with paying only for results with service contracts via performance contracting. We agreed that “service sharing” offers substantial cost savings where there are currently duplicative “backroom” services in human resources, information technology, and office management among the metro area’s 170 cities, seven counties and 347 school districts. Not surprisingly, other groups came up with similar solutions to these common concerns.

Three themes emerged from the conversations: 1) communication is a key part of improving service delivery, 2) collaboration between governments takes time and trust, 3) citizens must be patient to allow good results to emerge. 

Communication with all stakeholders (staff, the public, taxpayers, businesses, other units of local government) is essential to making any change to public service delivery a success. This helps people understand the timing of both implementation and expected results.

Trust is needed, and local leaders must make concerted efforts to have open, candid conversations with all residents and local business owners before pursuing any redesign. This enables taxpayers to understand expectations from changes. Change is easier to accept if people know that in the long run there will be cost savings.

Lastly, turnover among elected officials on any board is a potential barrier to achieving effective redesign. Therefore, it is crucial that managers, front-line staff, and the public, support reforms and continue with the plans (politics aside). It usually takes time before we reap rewards.

Recent examples of local change are the new Market Value Homestead Evaluation, the Linkage Line help with senior living decisions, and Woodbury’s cross training for EMS under Director Guiton. These reforms give local control of tax dollars and potential savings for citizens with no reduction to services.

One of the best ideas for statewide implementation is already in bill form and endorsed by AMC and the Washington County Board of Commissioners. The MAGIC Act (Minnesota Accountable Government Innovation and Collaboration Act or HF1579/SF1340) allows counties to test alternative ways to deliver services. It gained broad bi-partisan support during the 2011 regular legislative session, and we hope it will pass in 2012. 

Minnesotans may save money via a newly formed Sunset Commission. This bi-partisan group’s role is to examine every government agency and determine whether it should continue operating. Their recommendations are due to the legislature by February. 

Government leaders and citizens are encouraged to continue the conversation online at or on Twitter @InCommonsTalk and contributing ideas to the conversation at #MnRedesign. Information regarding AMC Redesign projects can be found at:

Lisa WeikWashington County Commissioner, District 5 – Woodbury
Andrea Kieffer, Minnesota House of Representatives, District 56B