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Candidates in Supervisor races share views
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Candidates in Supervisor races share views

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With the Nov. 3 general elections drawing near, the Page County Newspapers asked the candidates in the two races for Page County Board of Supervisors to share their views.

Republican nominee Jacob Holmes will run against Tim Johnson, who is unaffiliated, for the Page County Board of Supervisor District 1 seat to replace Jon Herzberg. Herzberg was elected in 2004, but is not running for another term. District 1 represents the county, except for the towns of Clarinda and Shenandoah.

For the Supervisors seat for District 3, write-in candidate Judy Clark will run against Chuck Morris, who is finishing up his first term as 3rd district supervisor. District 3 represents the city of Clarinda.


If you win the seat, what are the first two issues you will address and why?

I believe there are several issues that need to be addressed very quickly in our county. One is property rights with respect to the Board of Supervisor’s 2019 wind ordinance, which is addressed in another question. So I will pass on that for now. A very quick, very basic procedural change would be to restore public comment to public meetings, as that has been indefinitely suspended by our current Board of Supervisors (as of Sept. 8, 2020). This is unacceptable and needs to change day one. However, the issues that I would like to focus on for this questions are: (1) To start with, the Public Health Office and County Dispatch Center’s move to the former Methodist Preschool is, in my opinion, a prime example of a lack of foresight and big picture thinking on the part of our current board. The spending that this project is demanding for what is being accomplished is very troubling. The county purchased the building for $92,500, and is reviewing a contingency budget for a partial remodel of $675,000. According to KMA, this number still does not include the costs of removal of the asbestos present in the building or the relocation of radio equipment, which will be an additional estimated $160,000. If I was elected, and this project is still in the working stages, this would be one of the very first things I would address. The price tag here is far too high for what it is accomplishing, and I believe there are many alternate options that would accomplish the same end goal just as effectively for a fraction of the cost. These options could leave the money for other needs in the county or start toward a goal of tax relief. I also fear this has not been thought out well enough beyond the economic cost. For example, there is a lot of talk of building a new jail in the near future. Can we afford the price tag of refurbishing the old Methodist building into the County Dispatch Center when it truly makes more sense for the Dispatch Center to be located in the possible new jail? I think there are far too many holes that need addressed on this project before we move forward.

Secondly, I would seek to educate the residents of the county that the Board of Supervisors has the authority to keep land taxes the same or lower regardless of what the state does to evaluations. This has been misrepresented numerous times in the span of time that I have been attending the Board of Supervisors meetings. I have addressed this issue and asked for clarification more than once. The Supervisors can choose to adjust the levy so that the income to the county through taxes stays the same in spite of the change in evaluation of land at the state level. Once we are all on the same page about this, I would begin the hunt with each department head for inefficiency in their area. My goal would be to make every effort to keep the tax burden the same from one year to the next, and as soon as possible, to reduce it while providing necessary services and improvements in an improved and more efficient manner.

How can the board strengthen the relationships among all the towns?

I think first and easiest way to effectively strengthen the relationships among the towns in the county is to work towards more equal representation. There are several subheadings in my mind under this important step:

a. Make the Board of Supervisors and their meetings more accessible. Current meetings are at 8:30 on Tuesday mornings, when most of the public can’t attend. This rules out the voices and ideas of many in the county, and adds to the feeling of disconnect between the board sitting in Clarinda, and all the other areas of the county. In addition to working on alternate meeting times, the Board of Supervisors currently does not allow public comment at their meetings. So even if a resident cleared their schedule to attend, there is no longer a public comment portion of the meeting in which to share their ideas or concerns. This doesn’t promote communication or accessibility---Both of which are very important to building relationships.

b. I think it is also a great idea for the Supervisors to make a habit of attending town and city council meetings on occasion in order to acquaint themselves with what is going on, and help facilitate communication between the towns.

c. I also think that exploring the option of a five-member Board of Supervisors would help to strengthen town-to-town relations, as there would be more even and local representation and communication.

With wind turbines possible in the county, how would you have addressed ordinances related to the location and operation of turbines?

Our county’s wind ordinance is something that I have been speaking and standing about since even before I made the decision to run for the office of supervisor. As I have said over and over again------I am not against the inanimate object of a wind turbine, additional tax revenue to the county from such an investment, or the potential for landowners in our county to have income opportunity outside of traditional means. However, I believe STRONGLY that one landowner’s rights stop where the next landowner’s property line begins. The safety, building, and basic land rights of a non-participating landowner are currently being stolen. The safe use of a non-participant’s land is being permanently limited and changed without permission or payment. I believe the set-back distance determined to be safe should be measured from the property line of a non-participant. Our current ordinance measures from the nearest point of the foundation of an already built, able to be inhabited home. Regardless of your view on industrial wind, this is a dire injustice that sets a dangerous precedent for what property rights include. It is not the right of a participating landowner to permanently change the safety and use of his non-participating neighbor’s land because the amount of land owned is too small to safely house the investment. If you look up “Trespass Zoning” with an online search engine, you can see a picture of what is taking place by not honoring the property line as the start of measuring a safe set-back distance.

How should the county prepare for the plans and finances for a new jail, if you think that is a need?

I do not have an in depth understanding of exactly what the issues are with our current jail. I know from my attendance at the Board of Supervisor’s meetings, it is presented as only a matter of time before certain issues need addressed. My thought on how to approach this, or any other, potential building project, is to look at every viable option and begin SAVING while we study----Just as I would in my own business. I believe strongly in traveling and seeing what other counties do, and spending time asking them what they like and dislike about their completed project, and what they would do the same and differently looking back with clear vision. Thorough planning, thinking outside the box, exploring all options (not just going with the first one), and then sourcing and researching better prices and outlets are all parts of building that I am very acquainted with. Unfortunately, these aspects seem to be overlooked when we’re spending tax dollars. I want to change that.

If you win, how do you vision the county at the end of the term?

If I am elected and have at least one like-minded member on the board, I hope that several things mark the end of the next term!! 1) If Page County has industrial wind at the end of this term, I hope it would be on a basis that is fair to all. Remember, this is not something we can undo in 5 years. This is a multi-generational decision. 2) I hope that my term of service is marked by an increased efficiency in all areas of county government. I want to see improved services while eliminating unnecessary spending. 3) Barring crisis or catastrophe, I would absolutely expect for taxes to be stabilized and or reduced. This is something I feel very strongly about, and another topic I have spoken on and asked for at Board of Supervisors meetings. Not only does this benefit current residents in our county, it creates a friendly and inviting environment for new residents and businesses to grow with us! 4) At the end of my term, the board would be more accessible to the community, and could learn from the vast knowledge and ideas held by so many of our friends and neighbors. My biggest push for greater accessibility and involvement from the community would be an immediate move to make a minimum of one meeting a month in the evening when the majority of people can actually consider attending, and reinstating in full the public comment portion of each public meeting.

All this being said, what a wonderful place Page County is to live-----I am so happy to be here, happy to share it with you, and would love to serve you in moving towards a bright and beautiful future!!


If you win the seat, what are the first two issues you will address and why?

The first thing I will need to do is review two to three years of budgets. I will be involved in next year’s budget, so learning the immediate history will provide a good basis for questions that need to be asked. Budgeting process will begin immediately after my term begins.

The second issue will be to learn about training procedures in the roads department. I believe many of our gravel roads can be improved with proper maintenance. However, maybe I will be educated myself.

When faced with conflict and adversity, how do you plan to educate yourself and make strategic decisions?

Ask a lot of questions. Ask department heads, ask professionals in the field, ask people who have experience, and talk to residents who will be affected. I will do some research online, but I don’t use Facebook. I work hard not to allow myself to make decisions based on fear. The political world often uses fear tactics to accomplish their goals. Fear has to be respected but not allowed to run our government.

What should the relationship be between the board and Clarinda, Essex, and Shenandoah officials for economic development?

Economic development is a regional project. All governing entities must work together to welcome development. Government can’t cause economic growth. What government can do is write ordinances and policies that are welcoming and functional for business.

How should the county prepare for the plans and finances for a new jail, if you think that is a need?

I do think a new jail is needed. Supervisors need to learn from other counties ‘ experience. We need to investigate what the court system needs. We need to investigate how cells should be configured for various gender situations and juvenile needs. There is a lot to consider when planning a jail structure.

Paying for a jail would be much easier if we have wind power generators providing tax dollars to pay the bill. Regardless of wind, a bond will need to be issued and paid back over time. New property in the county (wind generators) or current property (land& buildings existing now) will be taxed to pay the bill.

If you win, how do you vision the county at the end of the term?

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Four years from now, Page County should have a serious plan for a jail. Maybe not completed, but a good plan.

Four years from now, Page County should be a safe place to raise a family. Page County should be a place our youth have opportunity and want to live and work.

Four years from now, Page County should be Covid 19 free; I hope it doesn’t take that long.


If you win the seat, what are the first two issues you will address and why?

First of all, thank you to the Page County Newspapers for this opportunity to speak on the issues. It has been an honor to serve this past three and a half years, and I’m looking forward to positive forward motion for the remainder of 2020. If re-elected, I will continue to roll up my sleeves, research the issues and dedicate my efforts to serve the best interests for the majority of Page County residents.

If elected, I would like our board to create an ordinance regulating future potential solar energy installations. In my research about possible wind development, I’ve come to believe that we are likely to see a push for solar energy in Page County. There have already been some inquiries in the county. Remember, an ordinance isn’t an endorsement for an idea, but rather a protection for our citizens. The absence of an ordinance means that any lease option between a private company and a landowner can result in a free-for-all and that’s not good. I need to study the solar issue further, but at first glance, this ordinance should include the key element of de-commissioning to help ensure when the end of life comes from this energy source, our land doesn’t become an industrial ghost town. The construction of solar, very much like wind, is absolutely about property rights. I hope voters will examine this issue closely and recognize that if unreasonable provisions are adopted by ordinance, the development of these alternative energy sources will not happen, thus denying the property rights of landowners who wish to participate in these ventures.

Another top priority is getting started on the path for building a new jail. This journey will take a fair amount of time and study because there are so many unanswered questions right now. Because of that, the Board will be hearing a presentation on October 27th from the Samuels Group to help begin the education process for making solid decisions about the facility’s needed size, location, and the estimated dollars it will take to fund such a venture. I hope the public will tune into our meeting on the 27th either in person, on zoom, or later in the day by viewing a recording of the meeting on our county Youtube channel. Our meetings have never been more transparent than they are right now, one of the silver linings of COVID.

When faced with conflict and adversity, how do you plan to educate yourself and make strategic decisions?

The first step is, to be honest about any personal bias I might have on a particular topic, so it doesn’t blind me to what our taxpayers are saying. Then I dive in by reading, listening and talking to those impacted and researching every available resource, including other governmental entities which have dealt with the same or similar issues. Once I gather this baseline data, I do my best to separate the factual things I’ve learned and compare that information to the emotional side of the issue. Then you make the best decision you can make as it relates to what is best for the majority and how the decision impacts the county’s ability to continue positive growth. Finally, as one individual on a three-person board, if the position I advocate for isn’t adopted by the board, I respect the process and accept the outcome. For me, I lean on my personal faith, asking for wisdom, realizing at the end of the day there are few decisions which are unanimously applauded by voters.

What should the relationship be between the board and Clarinda, Essex and Shenandoah officials for economic development?

Quite simply, we need to do everything possible to support economic development in the county. One of the candidates running has stated the best is yet to come for Page County. While I agree that can be achieved, we cannot ignore the raw population numbers. Between 2010 and 2017, Page County lost 4.5% of its population. In the next two years, between 2017-2019, Page County lost another 2% of its population. I’m concerned that when we get our 2020 numbers next year, that trend will not have been reversed. So helping support our existing businesses, along with efforts to support the expansion of broadband across the entire county and projecting a business friendly image to potential investors is vitally important for our future.

How should the county prepare for the plans and finances for a new jail, if you think that is a need?

I think we need a new jail, as stated previously. Voters may recall that four years ago, when I ran, I was an advocate for a new jail and said the planning should begin. However, as time has passed, I am glad we haven’t built one yet for a couple of reasons. In 2018 we made some structural improvements to the existing jail at a fairly low cost. This has bought us a bit more time to plan exactly what we need. Unfortunately, what we need is still very much unknown, given the proposed reduction of the District Court system in Iowa. There has been a constriction of Court services and quite a bit of talk in the Iowa Legislature about combining additional Courts across the state. If the state continues down this aggressive path over the next year or two, that will directly impact what size of jail we need, so I’m glad we haven’t built on yet. We have lots of neighboring counties which have constructed new jails in the last decade and this will help us greatly in our planning because we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work elsewhere. I think Page County will ultimately benefit from what we’ve learned.

Prior to COVID, Sheriff Palmer, Chief Deputy McCalla and jailer Tony Shackelford and I met with representatives from the Samuels Group to start this very conversation. COVID interrupted those informational talks, but as mentioned earlier, they will resume October 27th. We’ll know more in a few weeks about potential timelines, but I’m certain it will take us a while and be pretty expensive. However, the longer we wait, there’s a greater chance the construction costs will be higher. Frankly, we have built so little in Page County over the last 25 years that all of us have sticker shock whenever we look at big projects like a jail. There’s no doubt a jail will require bonding, but the good news is we have solid fund balances and great bonding capability because of our extremely low debt ratio.

If you win, how do you vision the county at the end of the term?

Page County has a history of being fiscally conservative and overall has done a great job maintaining reserves and holding the line on taxes we levy. I don’t see that changing, but I do expect we will continue to ramp up accountability measures for our organization. This will challenge us to continue to do the things we do well, while improving any areas where opportunities for improvement exist. Along that line, I think the COVID crisis has demonstrated just how quickly local government can pivot. This is encouraging given the fact government typically moves at a snail’s pace. We have gained some valuable insight into how to conduct business in extraordinarily difficult times leveraging technology much faster than normally we might have done. And I think government is better equipped to operate even more transparently moving forward as a result of COVID.

To the point of transparency and being user friendly for taxpayers, we have tried to conduct meetings in the evening in Shenandoah over the past few years with mixed results. Generally speaking, people only engage when there is controversy, but now that our meetings are accessible at the fingertips of a smart-phone or video replay, hopefully, taxpayers will engage more frequently and get a better sense of how hard your county is working to serve you. We don’t always get it right, but when we don’t, the lessons from mistakes help us find the right solutions.

In closing, I would like to say that it has been an honor representing you this past term. I’m proud of what has been accomplished with our improved emergency communication system, our safety initiatives, and the vastly improved relationships between our Board and the Veterans Affairs, Conservation & Public Health Boards. And I believe serving on the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Taskforce going now on my third year, is a great opportunity for Page County to have a voice on important matters impacting us here at home. If I earn your vote again, you can expect me to work hard to retain our solid core values while taking advantage of future opportunities with integrity, fairness and optimism.


If you win the seat, what are the first two issues you will address and why?

My first priority would be the budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. This past year, in my opinion, has seen a lot of wasted dollars in Page County. The fiasco of the engineer office and storage building has seen a lot of wasted tax dollars. The purchase of the Methodist Church education building was another questionable expense. I realize Public Health, Emergency Management and Safety Offices needed more space, but I don’t feel this was the best decision. The elected officials and department heads know what they need to operate successfully. It is the board’s duty to listen to their needs and try to fulfill them, within reason.

The second priority would be researching and moving forward with the possible construction of a new jail, sheriff’s office, and 911 center, all combined in one area that is best for 911 communications. As I stated in the KMA Forum, the jail needs to be replaced, not with a fancy building, but one that is adequate to meet the needs of all. The jail inspector’s report for at least the last 20 years has stated, “The Page County Jail is an older facility that is outdated and does not meet the current needs of staff, prisoners, or citizens of Page County.” Although it would be a large expense, it would truly be worth it for the citizens of Page County to have the reassurance of the best law enforcement and 911 communications possible.

When faced with conflict and adversity, how do you plan to educate yourself and make strategic decisions?

During this campaign, I have done a lot of research on many subjects. I have checked with other county officials, not only in Page County, but across Iowa, talked to many Page County citizens, and tried my best to learn as much as I can about issues facing the County today. I also have a great background after serving 30 years in county government, 24 as former Page County Auditor, and serving as clerk to the board of supervisors during those years. I want to listen to all sides of an issue before I make any decision.

What should the relationship be between the board and Clarinda, Essex and Shenandoah officials for economic development?

When I was county auditor, working with the board of supervisors on many issues, I always felt it was important for the county as a whole to work together in developing economic development projects. Economic development is not just related to one town or two towns, it is the whole county. The board supports economic development with a budget line item, and this needs to continue. But, we need to pull together and work for the best interests of the citizens of the whole county.

How should the county prepare for the plans and finances for a new jail, if you think that is a need?

As I stated earlier, I definitely feel there is a need for a new jail. We need to look at whatever avenues are available for funding this project. Bonding is always an option, if necessary. We bonded when we restored the courthouse, and the cost was not overwhelming to any one taxpayer. I believe it ran between 25 and 28 cents per thousand dollars valuation. For the county’s protection, it is definitely something that needs to be done.

If you win, how do vision the county at the end of the term?

I would hope that the County would be in a better place. We have three supervisors and decisions must be made working together for the good of the county. We need to continue to listen to those who have opinions and knowledge that we may not have. We must strive to keep taxes in a reasonable place for our citizens. However, everyone must also realize that we have certain mandated duties as a county that must be funded, and we must provide for the safety and welfare of our citizens. We have excellent elected officials—auditor, recorder, sheriff, treasurer, and county attorney. They keep our offices running and are there to answer any questions you may have. It is important that the supervisors work with all 11 towns and 16 townships in Page County, as well as remembering our school districts. We need to all work together to make Page County a place where people want to live, work and retire.

Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts. If elected, I will strive to do my best for all of the citizens of Page County.

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