At its first meeting of 2022 on Tuesday (Jan. 4), the Wright County Board of Commissioners elected Christine Husom as board chair. Husom, who doesn’t intend to run for re-election in November, was selected board chair for the second time in three years.
While she was a bit surprised by the nomination (made by Commissioner Mark Daleiden, she said her recent experience will be beneficial, especially if issues arise that divide the board.
“One thing this is important to me as board chair is to be a mediator, to be respectful and to ask that other board members show respect,” Husom said. “We’re not always going to agree. I think it’s important as a board that we come to an agreement on issues. It may be a 3-2 vote. When I was board chair in the past, we had some disagreements, but we were able to get past it because the board members were respectful of the views of the others – even if they disagreed with them.”
Husom said one of the things she likes about the commissioners is their differences. They aren’t in lockstep and they bring their own opinions to the table, which she sees as a plus when debate arises on various topics.
“We’re very different people with five different personalities and different backgrounds,” Husom said. “I think that’s a good thing. We can listen to each other’s opinions and concerns and deal with it professionally. That’s one of the things I like about the commissioners I’ve worked with.”
Husom hopes that 2022 will be vastly different than the controversy that followed her as board chair in 2020. In January, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order requiring local officials nationwide to agree in writing to welcome refugees before resettlements could take place in their jurisdictions. In February, the county board tackled the issue of making Wright County a “Second Amendment Dedicated County.”
Both issues brought very divided reactions among residents and Husom was inundated with phone calls and emails seeking out her opinion on the matters and providing their own to her.
“It was a very controversial start to the year,” Husom said. “(Former Commissioner) Mike Potter joked to me, ‘So what do you have planned for March?’ A couple of weeks later, the pandemic came to Minnesota and we had to make some critical decisions very quickly.”
The county board faced some unprecedented decisions at that time. While the county never completely shut down, for an extended period of time, public-facing windows were closed, but she was impressed how quickly staff were able to get the business of county government back up and running and the ingenuity displayed when facing the unknown.
“It was sad – it was a like a ghost town in (the Government Center) for quite a while,” Husom said. “But we learned things, like that we could set up a virtual network to allow people to work from home and continue to serve the public. I wouldn’t say anything good came out of the pandemic, but we did learn a lot about how we can adapt to different situations and still be effective in serving our residents.”
As she enters her final year as commissioner, Husom is excited about the challenges that face the county board in the new year, including a move into the new Government Center this spring. However, she could go for a year with less controversy than the last time she had control of the gavel.
“I’m going to do my best as board chair,” Husom said. “We will handle whatever gets thrown at us. I just hope it isn’t as much as we had the last time I was board chair.”