Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Finally, a woman on the Steele County Board April 4, 2012

CONGRATULATIONS, STEELE COUNTY, Minnesota. You’ve finally elected a woman to serve on the County Board of Commissioners. It’s about time.

I could hardly believe the news when I heard it this morning on an Owatonna radio station. It wasn’t the election of a female that surprised me. It was the fact that it’s taken this long.

For the first time in its history, this southeastern Minnesota county will have a woman serving on its county governing board. She is Nina Huntington, a dental hygienist from Owatonna, who beat out opponent Doug Hughes in a special election on Tuesday to represent the Fifth Commissioner District.

Huntington won with 250 votes, or 60 percent, compared to Hughes’ 164 votes, according to an article in the Owatonna People’s Press. Only 10.25 percent of the district’s registered voters cast ballots.

Interestingly enough, Steele County also made headlines on Tuesday as Minnesota’s healthiest county in ratings released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. That study considers mortality, morbidity, health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. Click here to read those study results.

So there you have it—Minnesota’s healthiest county now has a woman helping to govern it.

Huntington’s election in Steele County leads me to wonder this:

How many other Minnesota counties have never had a female serve on the county board of commissioners? If you have the answer or can direct me to that information, I’d like to hear. I would guess that number to be quite high.

Also, what do you think a woman can bring to county government that a man may not?

CLICK HERE to read an interview with Huntington published in the Owatonna People’s Press after she filed for office.

CLICK HERE to read the election results story in the OPP.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling