Baltich running in Lake County

by Tom Coombe
Joe Baltich, a former Ely mayor and city council member, is running for county commissioner in Lake County.
The local business owner and Fall Lake Township resident announced this week that he’ll challenge incumbent Pete Walsh for his seat on the county board.
Baltich hopes to represent a district that includes Fall Lake and the northern part of the county.
It’s an area that, according to Baltich, hasn’t received sufficient attention from county officials.
“I just feel that we don’t have northern representation,” Baltich said Thursday. “I’ve been watching it for years and waiting for somebody from this area to pull the trigger and become a representative for the northern part of the county. That hasn’t happened so I said ‘it’s time for me.’”
Baltich pointed to the county’s involvement in a broadband initiative that failed to result in high-speed internet service in the area.
“The county borrowed around $50 million for the broadband system,” said Balitch. “95 percent of the county has it but unfortunately the Fernberg does not. We have parts laying on the ground up here that haven’t been touched for three years. Everybody just walked away.”
Baltich also charged that Fall Lake residents get the short end of the stick when it comes to trash collection.
“We don’t have a decent system here,” he said. “When we need to get rid of appliances we have to go to St. Louis County and pay high prices. There are no provisions made for us other than loading up a truck and driving 86 miles to Two Harbors.”
Baltich also said the county has failed to make needed improvements to the Cloquet LIne.
“All we ever hear is something has to be done about it,” said Baltich. “I’m not saying that I have all the solutions, but I feel with me being on the board, having a voice from this region would have more affect. These people pay property taxes.”
Baltich is no stranger to politics or public advocacy.
In 1985, he was elected the youngest mayor in Ely’s history and later was a founding member of the Ely Public Utilities Commission.
After his mayoral stint, Baltich served six years on the city council before moving to Fall Lake, where he has operated a business for over 20 years.
More recently, Baltich has been an outspoken advocate for proposed copper-nickel mining projects and founded Fight for Mining Minnesota, a grassroots group with over 12,000 members.
In that role, Baltich has gone to Washington, D.C., to lobby members of Congress and federal officials on mining issues.
“I’ve got that Washington, D.C. experience,” said Baltich. “I’ve learned a lot and made a lot of contacts. I intend to make use of that knowledge.”
Balitch hopes to fill a board seat that represents Fall Lake and Crystal Bay townships and an unorganized area that borders Cook County.
Unlike St. Louis County, which has full-time commissioners, the Lake County post is a part-time role.
“I feel we need a voice up here,” said Baltich. “We need more attention. We’ve got needs.