Since he was first elected to sit on the Ramsey County Commission in 1988 Joe Belford has served the people of Ramsey County with one thing in mind, to make a better life for everyone who lives and works in the county.
He grew up next door to the courthouse in the Sheriff’s house when his dad was serving as the county sheriff and that’s where his appreciation of the county and its needs really began.
“I would ride with my dad all through the county when he was serving as sheriff and that’s where I really started learning about the area and getting to know the people who live here,” Belford reminisced.
In the 24 years he sat on the commission one of the biggest challenges they’ve had to work with, according to Belford, has been the county’s road system. There’s still much work that needs to be done, he says, but they have seen many roads blacktopped and improved to aid residents getting goods from farm to market.
And, of course, there’s the lake.
If he has one regret leaving the commission after all these years, it’s that they have not been able to stabilize the lake at an acceptable level where land could be returned to productive use by farmers.
“We really have a good county, here in Ramsey County. Our employees and department heads are really top notch and they’ve been a joy to work with. They really get things done and do it well,” Belford said.
He also says that he personally would not have been able to do all that he has been able to do if it weren’t for his wife, Mary Lou. “She has worked so hard all these years raising our children and providing our family with all that we need, she’s been my rock and allowed me to do all of this. Many a night she was alone and on her own when I was off traveling, attending meetings, lobbying in Washington - you name it,” he said.
Of the things that have been accomplished in the county, Belford said he’s proud of the Law Enforcement Center. “With Dick Johnson at the helm, that place has turned into a really good thing for the county as well as the other counties it serves. We were the first to attempt the regional concept and it is doing well,” he said.
Another that he mentioned were the changes and growth of Ramsey County Social Services. “As the need continues to grow, the county has stepped up and met those needs. They’ve made a real commitment to providing those services.”
Page 2 of 2 - After serving 12 years as an elected official on the Devils Lake City Commission and then 24 years with the county Belford says this isn’t the end of his years as a public servant. He will continue to serve Ramsey County for the next four years as a representative at large on the Red River Basin Commission - a group he helped to found that brings together officials from ND, Minn. and Manitoba, Canada to deal with water issues and problems.
A retirement party is planned for Belford on Wednesday, Nov. 28 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the basement meeting room of the Ramsey County Courthouse.