Pietsch re-elected in Paynesville Township

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 3/21/01.

Township election results

Don Pietsch Incumbent supervisor Don Pietsch (at right) was re-elected to office in Paynesville Township last week, ending one of the most contentious elections in township history.

Pietsch earned a second three-year term on the board of supervisors with his 289-271 victory over challenger Ed McIntee on Tuesday, March 13.

Pietsch, a Lake Koronis resident and former Litchfield teacher and school administrator, has served for three years on the township board, including the last year as its chairman. His new term will keep him on the board until 2004.

The election followed a year of frequently contentious township meetings, attended by a devoted group of residents critical of the direction of the township government.

Within the past year, the township board passed an orderly annexation agreement with the city of Paynes-ville, formed a joint powers board to build a new airport with the city, took over Co. Rd. 124 and renamed it Old Lake Road, started a recycling program, hired a part-time maintenance man, put up 911 signs throughout the township, designated several roads as rustic, sold the township’s snowplow to a private contractor, and strictly enforced the township’s zoning ordinance.

Pietsch won re-election while embracing this progressive platform. During the campaign, he acknowledged that some of these initiatives were not particularly popular, but stressed that he believed the programs were needed to keep the Paynesville community a desirable place to live in the face of residential growth in the township.

Last week, Pietsch said he was disturbed by misrepresentations he heard about his positions during the campaign. He heard rumors like he supported having the city annex the Heatherwood Addition; he doesn’t. Or that he wants to close the public accesses on the lakes; he doesn’t. “I was frustrated that there were a lot of false rumors out there about my positions,” he said.

Perhaps the most controversial issue in the election was the airport. Pietsch has backed the township’s participation as an equal partner with the city in the project.

McIntee’s main campaign pledge was to let the people decide. He promised during the campaign to put the airport issue to a public vote and to abide by its wishes in deciding to proceed with the project.

McIntee – also a Lake Koronis resident who still owns his own company in the Twin Cities – expressed surprise at the result of the election and his defeat, and thought the close margin indicated a divided community. “The people were not happy with what was going on,” he said.

Critics have charged Pietsch with not abiding by the wishes of the people, but with his re-election he aims to continue his support for a progressive government. “I have a strong belief that when you are elected to office the people are electing you to make the best decisions on their behalf,” he said.

He did express a willingness to listen to all sides of the issues. “I want to get as much input as I possibly can from people to help me make my decision,” he explained. But, he added, listening to a position doesn’t mean he will vote for it.

The turnout of 560 voters was the most for a strictly township election that Don Wiese has seen in 17 years as clerk. Paynesville Township has had a larger turnout for a general election in November, but not for a township election in March.

Both McIntee and Pietsch were pleased with the turnout. “The people came out to vote. The interest is there,” said McIntee.

“We had a good turnout,” Pietsch concurred, “but we had some real issues.”

After his close defeat, McIntee expressed interest in running again for township office.

Treasurer Sharon Wendroth was also re-elected in Paynesville Township with 506 votes. She will serve a two-year term.

At the township’s annual meeting, a proposal to move township elections to November was raised and defeated. Warren Nehring’s term as supervisor expires in March 2002.

The township board – Pietsch, Nehring, and John Atwood – will meet on Thursday, March 22, to organize for the coming year.

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