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Potter reflects on tenure as commissioner

November 17, 2012
Jenn Brookens - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

TRIMONT - After serving 12 years as a Martin County commissioner, Jack Potter is stepping aside.

Potter, 79, has served District 5, which covers the northwest corner of Martin County, including Northrop and Trimont.

"Jean Burkhardt got a good start for me," Potter said of the commissioner before him. "At the time, the Lakefield Junction peaking plant was going up, and that eventually helped with the wind farm [outside Trimont]."

There are many county-related projects Potter speaks proudly of, from the wind farm, to a comprehensive land use plan, to the recent switchover to making refuse-derived fuel at the Prairieland waste facility in Truman. But one thing that has stood out the most for Potter is the people.

"The people willing to serve on all these different committees is amazing," Potter said. "They are all filled with people who are willing to serve. The collaborations, like the Human Services with Faribault and Martin counties, it's one of the oldest collaborations in the state. It's been a process as a commissioner to learn about all these different departments. I have a healthy respect for the county employees because so many go above and beyond the call of duty."

Potter himself is proof that serving on a board doesn't just involve two meetings per month.

"I think of it as being like your chores as a kid: you do it when you are asked," he said.

There have been several challenges thrown at commissioners, such as jail mandates and declining aid from the state.

"We've done a good job on budgeting," Potter said. "We've been keeping surpluses in order. Even with inflation, we're one of the counties that has stayed in good shape fiscally ... There have been years where we've been the top county, and other years second and third, when it comes to ag sales."

While the jail mandates remain a thorn, Potter is content that commissioners made the right decision for the county.

"Even with the cost of transporting our inmates, it's still cheaper than building our own jail," Potter said. "I think eventually, there will end up being a central jail for the region."

Potter acknowledges he tends to remember positive things most.

"I'm not trying to sound too rosy, but I really like the cooperation we've had with the county, townships, cities, other counties and the departments all working together," he said. "With this group of commissioners, we can disagree like crazy, but there's still respect for each other. We're still paying attention to each other and what we are saying."

Potter's decision not to run for re-election this past spring was not a decision made lightly.

"I still enjoy it, and I enjoy everyone," he said. "It's not party-affiliated, so we get things done. It's been a great thing for the people, because it really is all about the people."

However, Potter has had some heart problems in the past few years, including the discovery of an aneurysm.

"It would require surgery, and the doctors told me my heart's not strong enough to withstand the operations," he said. "I feel fine. I can still work on the farm. I just have to be careful with heavy lifting. And with aneurysms, you can live with them for a long time."

Potter has faith that commissioner-elect Steve Flohrs will do an excellent job.

As for himself, Potter is not sure what he will do once his time as commissioner is complete.

"I will have withdrawal symptoms, I think," he said with a laugh. "But I feel good every day, and things will pop up. I'm sure of that."



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