For the past 16 years as a member of the Page County Board of Supervisors, Jon Herzberg has strived to make the county better for all its residents.
Herzberg retired from the Board of Supervisors effective Dec. 31. Although Herzberg represented District 1, which consists mostly of the unincorporated areas of Page County, he was elected by all the residents of Page County and therefore worked to meet the overall needs of the county.
“I tried to represent everybody fairly and keep an open mind while looking out for Page County as a whole,” Herzberg said. “I am going to miss the employees and the people of Page County that have supported me over the years. I want to thank them for all the hard work they put in.”
Herzberg made the decision to run for the Board of Supervisors in 2004 after learning Bob Anderson was retiring from the board. Anderson represented District 1 for 12 years and encouraged Herzberg to enter the race.
“I had a farrow-to-finish hog operation for 30 years, but the industry was changing and I decided to get rid of my livestock. Bob Anderson was going to retire, so I visited with him and he thought I would be a good fit. It worked out really well,” Herzberg said.
With the encouragement, Herzberg was one of four candidates to enter the primary in June 2004. After winning the primary, Herzberg was elected to the Board of Supervisors in November and took office in January of 2005.
“I was fortunate the people in Page County supported me and elected me. I still had my row crop operation, so the spring and fall were a little hectic, but I got it done. I always made sure I did my county work first,” Herzberg said.
Since Herzberg had not served in a government role prior to being elected, he admitted there was a steep learning curve involved. A key part of that process involved understanding and developing the annual county budget.
Herzberg said he was proud of the conservative nature the board took toward the budget process. Over the course of his 16 years, he said the county levy rate was only increased slightly.
Yet, over that same time, Page County was fortunate to be experiencing growth. As a result, the valuations for the county increased and generated additional revenue without having to raise taxes.
Besides holding the line on taxes, Herzberg said there were four significant projects he was involved in during his career that benefited Page County.
The most significant of those projects was finishing the installation of the new E911 system for Page County in 2019.
A federal mandate required the county to change from broad band frequencies for emergency communication to narrow band frequencies. However, the change reduced the signal strength in the county by 50% and revealed dead spots for radio communication in the county.
At the same time, the transition revealed the high cost involved in purchasing the equipment to continue operating dispatch centers in Clarinda and Shenandoah. Therefore, the difficult decision was made to move to a single county-wide dispatch center in Clarinda.
Although it took several years to complete the transition and solve all the communication problems involved with change, Herzberg said Page County will enjoy the reward of the project for many years to come.
“It has improved the safety protection we can offer people. We no longer have the dead spots and it provides a lot better system for all the people of Page County,” Herzberg said.
Page County is also currently working to complete repairs to 12 Emergency Watershed Protection structures. These projects are intended to stop the erosion of river channels, prevent bank degradation and protect the bridges at those sites.
Herzberg said the total cost of the repairs, once completed in the spring of 2021, would be $4.4 million. However, Page County received federal funding to cover 75% of those expenses and another 10% was funded by the Hungry Canyon Alliance.
In addition, Herzberg said the county has installed four new bridges in recent years. Three of those bridges spanned the Nishnabotna River. Two of those bridges were located at Braddyville and Shambaugh, while the third was on East Washington Street and Clarinda and was a joint project with the city of Clarinda.
The fourth bridge was at A Avenue north of Shenandoah. That bridge spans the Nodaway River. Herzberg estimated the cost of each bridge at $2 million.
“We are also getting designs for two more bridges, but it will be a couple of years before they will be built. They are both on the Nishnabotna River with one being north of Essex and the other west of Essex,” Herzberg said. “It had been many years since we built any large bridges. When we get those done, we should be in good shape for a long time.”
The final project Herzberg said he was proud to be involved in was storing the clock in the clock tower of the Page County Courthouse to working order. Since the original manufacturer was out of business, Herzberg said he worked closely with John Lisle of Clarinda to locate a company in Kentucky that had the necessary motors and gear boxes to repair the clocks.
However, as the end of his fourth term on the board approached, Herzberg said he realized it was time to make a change in his life and retire from political life.
“Sixteen years is long enough for one person to be in office. I have enjoyed it very much and I don’t know where those 16 years went. It was so fast it was unbelievable, but I guess when you enjoy it time goes fast,” Herzberg said.
Although Herzberg will continue to farm his row crop operation, he said he and his wife, Pam, were looking forward to spending more time with their children and grandchildren as well as having the opportunity to travel. Pam Herzberg also retired from her duties as Executive Director of the Clarinda Foundation at the end of the year.
Despite the opportunity for him and his wife to enjoy their retirement, Herzberg said he would miss the various people he worked with while serving on the Board of Supervisors.
“I really enjoyed working with all the elected officials in Page County. We had a lot of good teamwork that allowed us to get a lot of issues settled and projects done,” Herzberg said.