Rogness to retire from OTC Board after 15 years

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

Lee Rogness, for more than 15 years, has exemplified what is good about sound decision making by the five-person Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners. Rogness, whose district includes most of Fergus Falls, is not seeking another term.

“We are fortunate to have five members of a county board who work together on a non-partisan basis in order to get things done for the benefit of county residents,” he said.

Rogness was first elected in 2008 while successfully running a farm equipment business with family members. He was reelected in 2012, 2016, 2020 and in 2022 following county redistricting. 

Adds fellow Commissioner Wayne Johnson of Pelican Rapids, “It has been an honor to serve with Lee. As commissioners we sort out differences and come together to make good decisions for the well-being of county residents.”

One of those tough decisions was made in 2016.

The county board held public meetings seeking support for a half-cent sales tax to provide additional funding for roads and bridges. Support from constituents was more than 90 percent approval for initiating the sales tax that raises more than $5 million annually.

“County residents who attended those public meetings, in the evening, expressed a desire for their roadways to be maintained at the highest level,” Rogness said. “It was wonderful to have support in doing what was necessary to keep our roads and bridges in good shape.”

Johnson added that once a decision was made he, Rogness and the other three county commissioners went forward in a unified voice for the betterment of county residents.

“Lee has been a steady hand on our board of commissioners,” said Board Chairman Kurt Mortenson of rural Underwood. Those sentiments are echoed by Commissioners Dan Bucholz of Perham and Bob Lahman of Parkers Prairie.

Otter Tail County has received statewide recognition as a leader in addressing the needs of county residents.

One example, said Rogness, is Otter Tail County’s success with housing initiatives, drawing attention from other counties throughout the state of Minnesota. The Big Build rebate program, approved five years ago by Rogness and fellow county commissioners, is designed to spur new investment in single and two-family homes.

Taking pride in county employees

“We as county commissioners do our part, but we also take pride in county employees and the work they do,” Rogness said.

Rogness said successful county day-to-day operations would not be possible were it not for leadership from county administrators and the heads of various departments within county government.

“I am convinced that all of our county employees work to the best of their abilities while serving their fellow residents here in Otter Tail County,” Rogness said. “This culture was previously established by former county administrators and department heads, now retired.”

Otter Tail County, he added, has been willing to work jointly with area counties. An example, Rogness pointed out, is the waste-to-energy center in Perham. Steam heat is sold to industrial customers including producers of pet foods and cheese. Other examples are Otter Tail County partnering with area counties in public health initiatives.

“We as members of the county board, working with county staff, also worked hard to preserve the rich history of Otter Tail County,” Rogness said. “I can’t say enough about the leadership of county employees who headed renovations at our historic county courthouse, maintaining the beauty of this historic building.”

Rogness is also proud of county efforts to preserve Phelps Mill, the dam and the adjoining park that has been expanded in recent years. “County residents wholeheartedly supported foundation repairs that saved both the mill and dam,” he said while also commending the leadership of county employees protecting our parks and trails.

The retiring county commissioner says that, despite its many challenges, Otter Tail County is on the right track as a good place in which to live and work.