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Newcomer bids for rural seat

When voters in Hawthorne and Bennett head to the polls next week, their choice is a veteran supervisor or a political newcomer. Carol Johnson has held office for the last dozen years and is hoping to take on a seventh term because there is busine...

When voters in Hawthorne and Bennett head to the polls next week, their choice is a veteran supervisor or a political newcomer.

Carol Johnson has held office for the last dozen years and is hoping to take on a seventh term because there is business she hopes to complete.

Her challenger, Robert Edelstein, has been self-employed since 1984, installing automotive aftermarket products. Born in Madison, his family ties to the county go back to 1908, when his father, J.B. Edelstein, was born and raised in Superior.

"In 2005, I came back to the area to work on the cabin I inherited," Edelstein said. "And in the process of working on the cabin and getting to know the area again, because I'd been gone for 25 years at that point, I decided that it was time for me to get involved. So basically, it was because of my interaction with county government and my observation of it that I decided it was the right time for me to get involved."

Johnson has long been active in Hawthorne, from garden clubs to working with her church, attending town board meetings and taking an active role in the county's towns association, and planning for the county's sesquicentennial in 2004.

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"Every time they ask me to come to a meeting, I go to a meeting," Johnson said. "I've been very busy..." She said she gets involved, gets others involved and then steps aside.

As a member of the board, she serves as chairwoman of the zoning committee, has served as co-chair of the former land use committee and now serves as chairwoman of the county's comprehensive planning committee; she's also taken on special projects, such as co-chairing a committee created to consider shrinking the county board.

"I bring energy and new ideas," Edelstein said. County plans to reduce the size of the board from 28 to about 16 members in 2011 piqued Edelstein's interest in serving Douglas County.

"I see a big change in county government coming in the next three to five years, a change in size and perhaps the structure, and I want to participate in that process," he said. "Specifically, that is the much smaller board and perhaps a county executive."

A county executive is an elected administrator akin to a city's mayor or state's governor , but at the county level. Douglas County operates with a hired administrator.

"Many people here have no idea such a thing exists, and that's surprising to me," Edelstein said. "I've lived my life in or near big cities, and I've never seen a government without one ... The county executive is kind of a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned. There has to be some executive branch oversight. When you do not have executive branch oversight of the legislative branch, that leaves something askew in the balance of power -- the obvious constitutional balance. I would love to participate in the process of making that part of the county government. I think it's important." The executive's salary would be the same as the county administrator, he said.

Edelstein said other things he would like to address include improving the county's business climate. Within his district, he would like to see improvements to County Roads D, P south of B, and L east of Highway 53.

"I would challenge anyone to find worse roads that are supposedly paved or were paved at one time," he said.

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"I do not have any personal agendas on the county board. I do not," Johnson said. "I care about the people. I'm concerned about the economy. I'm concerned about jobs. I'm concerned about people's welfare out here in the whole county."

She plans to continue serving people as she has for the last 12 years, Johnson said.

"I have been an advocate of the people. People know that they can call me anytime -- sometimes even protect them from government, government intrusion in their lives. ... I have always listened to people. And I have tried to help them solve some problems. I have tried to help them by being a go between with county government because they don't know who to call when they have a situation."

She said it doesn't matter where they live, she's willing to help.

"People know where I stand. They know I will follow through on the job," she said.

Contact Shelley Nelson at (715) 395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com .

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