Prochniak, Wesselmann in race for county auditor
NEW ULM — After four years as Brown County auditor-treasurer and many years of experience as the assistant auditor-treasurer, Jean Prochniak said she truly loves the diversity of her job.
“Coming to work each day brings a new challenge,” Prochniak said. “It is great working with our local units of government, making decisions that affect both entities. Our goal has always been to incorporate processes that carry us into the future and are a cost-savings to taxpayers. I love working with landowners and taxpayers on their unique situations.”
In addition, she said testifying before the Minnesota Legislature for the benefit of local taxpayers fulfills her desire to serve and work towards appropriate taxation.
“I enjoy the opportunity to network with my colleagues throughout the state who share the same perspective on providing quality service to the taxpayer,” Prochniak said.
She said the greatest challenge she faces is guiding people through change.
“Government needs to be open to change,” Prochniak said. “Keeping our professional habits the same year after year will create stagnation. That is why we should always evaluate what we are doing and why. Change does not come easy for many, but is necessary to move toward our goals.”
Prochniak said leadership continuity is important as her office is at the crossroads of so many projects. She listed some of the biggest issues as drainage, taxation, financial management, case management, tax forfeiture and elections.
“I think landowners are going to be faced with some major decisions in the coming years as many drainage systems are more than 100 years old and are collapsing,” Prochniak said. “The Drainage Authority has authorized a feasibility study on one of the county systems to give landowners an opportunity to see how drainage can be improved. If this process proves beneficial, I envision that we will be organizing more of these hearings on other systems.”
Prochniak said ditch benefit redetermination has been done for most of Brown County plus the planting of perennial vegetation for 16.5 feet buffer zones has been done.
In addition, Prochniak said she obtained a grant to assist with a drainage records modernization project. The auditor-treasurer is required by law to maintain historical drainage records.
“It is our plan to have those records available for landowner access 24-7 on our website,” Prochniak said. “This is a huge undertaking but will create transparency of effort to all ditch system landowners.”
The A-T office is working on creating a fully-integrated financial system for all county departments. Existing programs do not share information, causing data double entries to be done.
Prochniak wants to develop a 10-year county cash management plan, allowing calculated fund investment. Public fund investment is restricted by law. Investment safety is the most important consideration, followed by liquidity and yield.
She said Brown County is fortunate to have few land parcels that forfeit to the State of Minnesota for non-payment of taxes. Dealing with environmental issues without having funds to work with is one of the biggest challenges with forfeited property.
This election season, a transition to new equipment, reducing the number of polling locations and utilizing mail ballots, have been the focus, Prochniak said. In addition, she said absentee voting remains open through Nov. 5 this year.
“The 2020 presidential nominating primary is going to be an expensive process for taxpayers and a logistical nightmare to implement,” Prochniak said. “I am a member of a statewide committee that continues to research and educate legislators on the challenges this election will present to counties.”
Prochniak said she has 38 years of trusted experience with Brown County.
“Together with my staff, we have offered new opportunities to taxpayers, voters, landowners and local government units that provide benefits,” Prochniak said. “We have proven accountability and transparency. It is important to continue to educate and share information with the residents of Brown County.”
Prochniak said she feels truly blessed to serve Brown County residents, which she called “the best years of her life!”
Paul Wesselmann of New Ulm, who has worked as a financial counselor for more than 20 years, is challenging Prochniak in the Nov. 6 general election.
“I want to give the voters of Brown County a voice on election day. I feel that’s very important. I want to give back to the citizens of Brown County,” Wesselmann said.
A lifelong Brown County resident, Wesselmann has been a New Ulm businessman for 25 years, including 20 years as a financial consultant. He has had1,200 clients, handled more than $90 million in assets and worked for 13 years as CEO of a partnership with two other people.
He served on the St. Mary’s Church Finance Committee for six years.
A Brown County maintenance employee for five years, he assists with a $500,000 annual budget and handles internal and external billing. In addition, he has worked as a church finance committee member for six years.
Wesselmann said he has dealt daily with the Brown County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office for the past two and a half years in his county job.
“They (County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office) are an excellent staff which would help me transition into the auditor-treasurer’s position if I am elected,” Wesselmann said. “They have good employees to work with. The better your staff, the better service you can provide the public and the easier your job is. I always want to keep that a priority.”
Wesselmann said he considers himself a good listener and problem solver, helping people reach their financial and personal goals.
“Through the years, I have developed a broad knowledge of finances and budgeting,” he said.
Wesselmann said A-T office challenges include keeping up with the changes and technology in our modern world so county residents have a nice, friendly experience when they need help.
Wesselmann said he feels comfortable with the A-T staff. He talked to a retired auditor-treasurer about the job and its duties and came out feeling his skill set would be a smooth transition if elected.
“I also think my previous business ownership will help me when dealing with staff and residents.” Wesselmann said.
During his campaign, concerns he said he heard were about the way money is being spent and the approachability of the auditor-treasurer. Wesselmann said those are two things he would look at improving upon.
Fritz Busch can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.