Sweeney faces three challengers in primary

Townships including Rice Lake, Lakewood, Normanna, and North Star make up the rural fifth district, or precinct 36. Campaigning to represent Proctor, Hermantown and Duluth townships are incumbent County Commissioner Peg Sweeney, Brian Landstrom, ...

Townships including Rice Lake, Lakewood, Normanna, and North Star make up the rural fifth district, or precinct 36. Campaigning to represent Proctor, Hermantown and Duluth townships are incumbent County Commissioner Peg Sweeney, Brian Landstrom, Marcia Stromgren and Bernard Pistner.

Peg Sweeney

Running in her fourth election, District 5 County Commissioner Peg Sweeney is looking to continue her efforts to improve social services and elderly care available in St. Louis County.

Sweeney was born and raised in West Duluth in a politically active family. "I was politically involved my entire life, my dad was a steel worker and very involved in politics," said Sweeney. "As I grew up it was just who I was. We were taught to be involved in our community and elections and to vote for the people we wanted to see elected."

She graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a degree in music education. After teaching for a few years, she pursued a change in career. In 1978, she began serving on the Proctor City Council.


In 1996, she was approached by several people who encouraged her to seek a county commissioner position. She ran a successful campaign and was elected to the position she holds today.

"When I first got involved, there was little supervision in place for adults in assisted living places. Basically, if they had a fire extinguisher, they were approved, and there was no checking on the dispensing of medication," said Sweeney. "I worked on some legislation that would regulate those."

Sweeney is seeking re-election because she said, "I'm not done."

"We should be working on the front end, things that make healthy babies and protect vulnerable adults," said Sweeney. "The money needs to be on the front end because it's far cheaper on the front end than later in life."

Regarding ATVs on the North Shore Trail, Sweeney believes that ATVs are our snowmobiles of 30 years ago.

"Thirty years ago we had snowmobiles on city streets because there was no place for them, and the same thing has happened with ATVs," said Sweeney. "We need to develop a trail system whether it be the North Shore Trail or not. In concept, I think we need to deal with it. It's not going away."

Sweeney said this year St. Louis County residents will not see a rise in the county portion of property taxes and in the future foresees property taxes actually going down.

"Right now we are faced with budget issues," said Sweeney. "When I came on the board, I didn't have the foggiest notion of what this job really entails. I work most weeks 50-60 hours a week between the committees I serve on all related to my position as county commissioner. It's more than a full time job. I believe doing seven budgets, I have the breadth of experience already, and I think our track record has been very good."


Sweeney will start putting out brochures and yard signs in the next few weeks, and, like the other candidates, will attend the Chamber of Commerce candidate forum on Aug. 24 at 4 p.m. in the council chambers at Duluth City Hall.

Sweeney is a member of the Duluth Township Association and is working with organizations to determine what township areas need to receive expanded sewer and wastewater systems and which should be kept rural in relation to growth issues.

Sweeney is married with two grown children and three grandchildren.

Brian Landstrom

Native Duluthian Brian Landstrom took a shot at the county commissioner position two years ago during a special election. Although he didn't win, he has maintained the same campaign platform and vision for St. Louis County.

"My platform back then is the same as it is today," said Landstrom. "It is one of being a good steward. I look at this as being a servant to people not only of the 5th District, but countywide."

After high school, Landstrom spent some time in the Coast Guard, then returned to Duluth to study business at Duluth Technical College, now Lake Superior College.

Landstrom went into business with his wife, from whom he is now divorced, and began other business opportunities on his own. Landstrom worked in the funeral industry as a family service counselor and is currently an entrepreneur in the building stages of an insurance company. In the past he has done some legal work and continues provided limited services to several law offices.


He has three adult children and now lives in Pequaywan Township where he is a township supervisor.

Landstrom said he gives much credit to Sweeney because of all that she has given to the county, but is running against her to offer voters something above and beyond the incumbent.

Landstrom said he will offer more by being user-friendly and able to listen more attentively to the concerns of the community.

As commissioner, Landstrom said he would work to keep St. Louis a family friendly county. "I think that families are the backbones of our community and social structure," said Landstrom. "We need jobs to help us sustain families and allow them to live here, and that involves working with whatever entities there are to achieve that."

Landstrom will approach issues with the idea of improving the quality of life of young and working families, including the issue of ATV use on the North Shore Trail, new developments and property taxes. He would also like to see the budget come down by need as the economy rises.

"It's a tremendous concern we're facing with the budget cuts," said Landstrom. He said he will fight to maintain services that protect the quality of life, such as the sheriff's department, providing senior citizens with long-term care and maintaining natural resources.

Landstrom said he will find a way to keep property taxes reasonable by not letting increases drive people out of their homes.

When looking at new developments, Landstrom will first look into how the development would enhance the families in the area.


Landstrom said making areas conducive for ATV use holds great potential. "I am a motorized and non-motorized recreation person," said Landstrom. "I am in support of seeing a structured plan for ATV use in northern Minnesota. I think it will be beneficial to the tourism industry, and it will support jobs the way the snowmobile industry does."

Landstrom likes the fact the commissioner's job is nonpartisan. He wants to make all decisions with the best interest of the county in mind, regardless of how specific interest groups may encourage him to vote.

His campaign strategy will remain under wraps, but he does plan on getting out to the public in the next few weeks.

"Rural territory is tough to get out and meet everybody, it's just the nature that people live rurally, said Landstrom.

Marcia Stromgren

After six years of service to Normanna Township, Marcia Stromgren is taking what she calls a necessary step for change and running for county commissioner for District 5.

Stromgren was born and raised in Duluth and has lived in Normanna for 28 years. She is a wife, mother and grandmother.

Stromgren was elected to serve as a supervisor for Normanna Township for the 2002-2005 term. She is also a member of the South St. Louis Soil and Water Conservation Board.


Stromgren was a 4-H supervisor, and is a driving force behind the building developments in her township.

Running for the county commissioner seat has been on Stromgren's mind for a while.

"I've considered this post before, but this time I felt it was necessary for a change," said Stromgren. "County government and other levels of government are experiencing more and more cuts, and I see a need to cut the size of government. The tax burden is getting bigger and bigger because the government is trying to control more and more."

As District 5 county commissioner, Stromgren said she would carefully examine the way attractions like the Great Lakes Aquarium and the Depot are being managed financially to make sure the public is not footing the bill for the county's mismanagement.

Stromgren said that the public has to see the value of putting money into anything. "There has to be something to draw a person to an entity," said Stromgren. "They (the county board) needs to get out of supporting for the sake of supporting when it is not cost effective."

Stromgren believes the county has no responsibility to make economic growth, so when it comes to issues like ATVs on the North Shore Trail, Stromgren said, that if people have a desire to use something like that, they need to come up with the funding themselves. "We're going to create a whole list of modern machines that will want a place to go," said Stromgren. "Can we keep providing these places?"

To handle budget cuts and property taxes, Stromgren said that she will do her homework to find the most cost effective way to fund programs.

Stromgren said she will be looking for ways all levels of government can be more accountable to people. "I would want to represent not only my district, but I would want the decisions made to be beneficial to the entire St. Louis County."


Stromgren said she realizes it will be her responsibility as a county commissioner to put items on the agenda in a timely fashion to allow for everyone to research an issue.

"I want to be reasonable and not reactionary," said Stromgren. Stromgren plans on doing as much door knocking as she can.

Bernard Pistner

After removing himself from previous political involvements for a year, Bernard Pistner is running for commissioner to give voters in District 5 a different voice and a different opinion on issues.

Pistner was born in North Carolina and grew up in Pennsylvania, spending a few years back in North Carolina. He joined the Air Force and found himself in Duluth in 1963.

He attended the University of Minnesota Duluth and also took a full time position with the Air National Guard. He retired from the guards in 1998.

Pistner currently drives school buses in the winter time. He has been married since 1967 and has four grown children.

Pistner kept himself politically busy with a number of township, county and state organizations.

For 21 years, Pistner was on the Lakewood Township Board. He has served on the Northshore Management Board, the St. Louis County Township Association, the Duluth Area Association of Townships and the Minnesota Association of Townships District 10 for St. Louis County, Lake County, Cook County and Carlton County.

Pistner said his platform concentrates on the main differences between himself and the incumbent Sweeney, including environmental issues, property taxes, economic development, social services and voter contact.

"I have a different opinion on environment issues," said Pistner, but added he would not expand on the major differences until the issues arise throughout the campaign. Concerning the issue of ATVs on the North Shore Trail, Pistner said he would have to look further into the issue and explore both sides before taking a stand.

Property taxes is another issue. "I'm not for any increases on property taxes, unless the voters want the increase," Pistner said.

Pistner said if the voters demand something be funded, raising property taxes might be an option.

Pistner is in favor of economic development and would like to see an increase of jobs in the area.

Pistner said he would want to "keep a lid" on Social Services, and keep things "down to a respectable situation."

Staying in contact with the voters is also important to Pistner. He said as a candidate and as a county commissioner for District 5 he would be accountable for a lot of townships, and to stay in touch with the townships he would attend each township's board meetings.

Pistner is not seeking any endorsements and appreciates that he is seeking a non-partisan position. "I won't owe anybody out there except the voters," said Pistner.

Pistner would like to bring his opinions and his experience to the board.

He is not campaigning heavily now, but will start door-knocking closer to the primary.

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