It’s been a long time coming, but for the first time since the 1970 Census, Wright County won’t have to redistrict the five commissioner districts. This week, Wright County received commissioner district population figures from the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office and the numbers fell well within the limits that won’t require redistricting.
The rules of redistricting in state statute require that redistricting must take place if one or more commissioner districts is more than 10 percent above or below the average population of all five commissioner districts. The 2020 Census population total for Wright County is 141,337 – creating an average size for a commissioner district of 28,267. Under the state statute, redistricting would be required if one or more commissioner districts had a population of 31,094 or more or 25,440 or less.
The good news for Wright County is that none of the commissioner districts fell outside the limits. The population figures by district are as follows:
District 1 (Commissioner Christine Husom) – 28,258
District 2 (Commissioner Darek Vetsch) – 27,916
District 3 (Commissioner Mark Daleiden – 30,192
District 4 (Commissioner Mary Wetter) – 26,253
District 5 (Commissioner Mike Kaczmarek) – 28,718
Because all of the districts fell within the population parameters, for the first time in 50 years, Wright County won’t have to go through the laborious, expensive and often contentious process of drawing up new district lines – a process that has been controversial over the years.
Following the 2000 Census, Commissioner Ken Jude strenuously objected to the redrawing of his district, which removed his hometown of Maple Lake, where he had a strong base of support. Following the 2010 Census, four of the five sitting commissioners were placed in two districts – Pat Sawatzke and Rose Thelen in District 2 and Jack Russek and Dick Mattson in District 5. In that election cycle, Russek didn’t file for re-election because he didn’t feel it was fair for him to run against Mattson. Mattson would end up losing in the primary and the District 5 seat was won by Charlie Borrell. Sawatzke and Thelen ran against one another with Sawatzke coming away with the election victory.
The rationale behind putting sitting commissioners in the same district was to address an issue Wright County has had for decades when it comes to apportioning the population into commissioner districts – the I-94 corridor.
The growth along I-94, specifically in the Otsego and St. Michael areas, has consistently seen the northeastern portion of Wright County growing disproportionately larger than other areas of the county. None of the current commissioners were on the county board when the decision was made, but understood the reasoning – even if it meant that at least two sitting commissioners would be eliminated. As it turned out, following the 2012 elections, there were four new commissioners joining the county board simultaneously.
One of those was current County Board Chairman Mark Daleiden, who could empathize with the rationale involved – even though it created two districts that didn’t having a sitting commissioner, including his own – which is comprised of the Cities of Otsego and Dayton and one precinct in the City of St. Michael.
“You have to give the commissioners from back in that time credit,” Daleiden said. “They went into the process looking to avoid having to do another redistricting 10 years later. They intentionally made my district as small as it could because they took into account the growth that they knew was going to continue in that area. When I was elected, my district was the smallest. Now it’s the largest.”
And, for the first post-Census period in a half-century, Wright County won’t have to rewrite its commissioner district boundaries.