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Dave Olson, Published January 12 2009

Longtime Clay commissioners enjoy new pursuits

Two men who served a combined two decades on the Clay County Commission are now off the board and pursuing their own versions of getting away from it all.

“It’s chilly today; it’s only supposed to be in the low 70s,” said Mike McCarthy, gloating good-naturedly from Palm Desert, Calif.

McCarthy and his wife, Carol, will spend a few more weeks there before returning to Moorhead.

“I could never abandon the Midwest,” said McCarthy, who served on the commission for 12 years before deciding not to run for re-election last fall.

Former Commissioner Ben Brunsvold, who was defeated in his bid to be re-elected to the board he served on for eight years, also recently left Moorhead.

Deep woods

These days, Brunsvold is usually at the home he’s building in the deep woods of northern Minnesota, near Park Rapids.

“It’s very beautiful back there. It’s 28 acres, so there’s lots of elbow room,” said Brunsvold, a retired attorney whose stated purpose for joining the commission was to fix what he said were problems with the county’s budgeting process.

Brunsvold said improvements have been made, but he remains critical.

“The area that has been sorely missing is the ability to put together the complete financial picture of the county at any given time,” he said.

As far as accomplishments, Brunsvold lists collaboration and keeping the county focused on the future.

“One of the more significant things that has happened during the past eight years is the way our communities and counties have worked together on many projects, whether it’s flood control, the dispatch center or other projects,” he said.

“We joined the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corp. That, I would say, is a great development for Moorhead, for Clay County and the entire community,” Brunsvold said.

Doing more nothing

McCarthy was elected to the commission after retiring from the Moorhead Police Department in 1997.

After 27 years with Moorhead police and 12 with the County Commission, McCarthy said he’s more than ready to do a little less.

“After 39 years, its time to do something else and probably nothing,” said McCarthy, 66.

The “something else” is likely to be travel, he said.

“We want to see Ireland and Norway, minimum, and then spend a little time checking out our own country,” he said.

McCarthy said during his time on the commission the board streamlined county departments.

“We’ve done what we can to get the most bang for the buck. That’s been the main thing.”

He said a challenge facing the commission and its newcomers – Wayne Ingersoll and Grant Weyland – is how to keep the county’s juvenile detention center viable.

“It’s not being utilized by member counties like it used to, which is good news because it means kids aren’t getting in trouble,” McCarthy said.

“The bad news is, we count on that for income,” he said, adding the detention center’s operating budget faces a $240,000 shortfall.

Brunsvold, who lost to Ingersoll in November, said he had thought about sitting out the election.

“I don’t want to make any excuses – I got whipped – but I just didn’t have the energy to do what I needed to do to get re-elected,” said Brunsvold, adding that he is happy in his new home and spending time with his children and grandchildren.

“I didn’t like losing, but I don’t mind not being a commissioner,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555