Candidates address questions in forum
Five candidates for Emmet County supervisor, three for sheriff and two for auditor addressed several questions each at a candidates’ forum Wednesday night at the Estherville Lincoln Central Middle-School auditorium. The event was sponsored by the Estherville Area Chamber of Commerce and Estherville Cable Commission.
Question 1: How do the duties of your current employment qualify you for the position of Emmet County Auditor?
Tammy Lair said she was currently a staff auditor for a professional auditing firm. In that role, she prepares payroll, works with general ledgers and works with budgets. “I think all of these things are important when you’re in public office,” Lair said.
Mikki Erickson said she has served as facilities specialist with all five Iowa Lakes Community College campuses. She said she works with people in a variety of levels of the college and with various projects.
Question 2: What do you see your role as it relates to the Board of Supervisors?
Erickson said she saw herself as being responsible for taking accurate notes and commended current Emmet County Auditor Bev Juhl for the good relationship she has with the supervisors. “They did look to Bev for a lot of answers,” Erickson said.
Lair saw the role as “very similar to what Bev Juhl does currently.” She also said it was important that the board be able to rely on the auditor.
“I believe that you need a very good relationship with the board of supervisors,” Lair said. “Emmet County is very relaxed in their forum but that allows them to get a lot of good things done.”
Question 3: Is the auditor’s office adequately funded as it relates to the commissioner of election duties that you will be assuming?
Erickson said she did not expect there would be more money given budget projections. “The elections are important to every one of us as citizens,” she stressed.
Lair said the office was not adequately funded. “If we don’t step up with technology we may have some of the same problems that other counties have experienced.
In closing comments, Erickson said she looked forward to working with the current staff in the auditor’s office if elected. She said her experience and master’s in business administration “would offer Emmet County a very valuable asset.”
Lair noted her 25 years of professional accounting experience and 15 years with a nonprofit. “I understand the aspects of all parts of a business,” she said.
Question 1: Please explain how you see the working relationship between the Sheriff’s Department, the City of Estherville Police Department and the Highway Patrol.
“It’s no secret that apparently there’s been some communication breakdown between the sheriff’s office and the Estherville Police Department,” said chief deputy Mike Martens. “Communication and working relationships kind of go hand in hand. It’s an important thing that needs to be cured and I’m willing to work to cure it.”
“That’s actually one of the reasons I’m running,” said Gene Haukoos, manager of Estherville Ambulance Service for the past 16 years.
“You’ve got to talk to each other,” said Morris Jorgensen.
Question 2: Our police force is part of a multi-state multi-jurisdictional task force and the sheriff’s department has the Multiple Area Response Team. If you were elected sheriff, would you continue to operate a separate team?
Haukoos said the sheriff’s department paid $1,500 to belong to the Multiple Area Response Team, the same that it would cost to belong to the H.E.A.T. team
“I’d probably leave things just the way they are until I knew what was going on for sure,” Jorgensen said.
Martens noted a difference between the two units. “Today we need to have those resources available,” Martens said. He said by belonging to the Multiple Area Response Team the county was able to partner with neighboring law-enforcement agencies and so cut response times.
Question 3: We have read about the radios in the law center being old, outdated and inappropriate for what they are supposed to do. Do you agree with this position, and if so please tell us how you plan to fix the problem, and what you will do to mitigate this problem in the future.
“I really don’t know much about that situation so I really can’t say right now. But if they’re outdated, update them,” Jorgensen said.
Martens agreed that the radios and control room equipment were outdated. He noted that the county was working on a $500,000 upgrading project and that a schedule is needed to replace equipment.
Haukoos noted the E-911 board’s grant application through the Ringsted Fire Department to upgrade the system. That grant application was denied. He said upgrading needs to go through the E-911 board.
Question 4: What is your position on the use of juveniles as informants?
“Every agency is going to have to decide how they’re going to do it,” Martens said. “I wouldn’t recommend it.”
“I think that’s a very low-down thing to do,” Jorgensen said. He said the sheriff’s department has used juvenile informants in the past.
‘We should not use juveniles as informants,” Haukoos said. He recalled that a few years ago there was a $197,000 out-of-court settlement with Emmet County picking up $50,000 of the settlement. He was speaking of a lawsuit after the 1997 murder of Sky Erickson.
Question 5: What is your position on issuing concealed weapon permits for Emmet County citizens who apply?
“Criminals don’t ask permission to carry guns,” Haukoos said. He said Iowa law requires very stringent background checks and live-fire performance standards for those who receive concealed-weapons permits.
“It’s in the Bill of Rights,” Jorgensen said, noting specifically in the Second Amendment.
Saying he was a gun owner himself, as well as a shooting sports instructor for 4-H students, Martens asked how people would feel if they saw someone in public wearing a concealed weapon.
In closing arguments, Martens said he was the best candidate because he was born locally and educated in the Estherville School
District and at Iowa Lakes. “My whole career has been spent in Emmet County for 25 years,” Martens said. He said his current position as chief deputy demonstrates his leadership qualifications for county sheriff.
Jorgensen said that he was born in Ringsted. “I was raised a Christian. I know right from wrong,” he said.
Haukoos said his 23 years of service in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a master chief petty officer in which he was in charge of as many as 100 people. “I have the ability to get along with people, to solve problems and I want to be your sheriff,” Haukoos said.
Question 1: What do you see as the primary challenge affecting Emmet County today, and how would you address it?
Incumbent Roger Anderson said funding was the primary challenge or “getting the most bang for our buck.”
“The budget is going to be the biggest concern,” said incumbent Randy Beaver, also noting limited tax levies and valuations. “We’re going to have to have a willingness to say no” to funding requests, he said.
“I would kind of have to look back at the basics and see what we can afford here as a county,” said Tim Schumacher. “We need to look around to see how we can handle our funds.”
“The budget is the primary duty of the county supervisors,” said current board chairman Alan Madden. “We try to keep our expenses down as low as we can.” Madden’s biggest concern was “a stagnant and decreasing population.” He hoped the local option sale tax which voters recently passed could lead toward county development and reverse the current trend.
Bev Juhl, current auditor who has announced her retirement in order to run for supervisor, said funding was the biggest concern and being able to maintain services with funds available. She had particular concern for the mental health and public health budgets.
Question 2: The county recently passed a one-cent sales tax ballot proposition that said, that the taxes from goods and services should be allocated as follows “50 percent to the Rural Services Fund for property tax relief and 50 percent to new and continuing County Betterment programs and projects.” How do you interpret the breakdown?
Madden said the current board had decided how those funds should be spent in rural areas. He thought the 50/50 split between rural services and community improvement was fair.
Schumacher agreed that the tax distribution formula the supervisors developed was fair. He said he would like to see how the county could be more accommodating to businesses considering coming into the county, noting that it was better to promote the county than to abate taxes.
Juhl said the board had thought quite a bit about the distribution formula for the local option sales tax. “I think they did the right thing,” Juhl said. “It is for the whole county. It is something we would have to determine in the future” as to how exactly the county should spend the money.
“I think it was a good decision,” Anderson said of the LOST distribution formula. He noted a need for money for county roads and for trails in county parks.
Beaver said he favored the sales tax as a way of giving property tax relief. In a sense, he said all the money would provide property tax relief.
Question 3: What qualifies you to be an Emmet County Supervisor?
“I feel like I’m more qualified now to be Emmet County supervisor than I was four years ago when I was first elected,” Madden said. He said he has an open mind and is willing to hear people out before making a decision.
“My qualifications are my deep caring for this county,” Schumacher said. “I think I possess the ability to make good decisions based on the gathering of a lot of information.” Schumacher said he also wanted to bring a spirit of entrepreneurship to the position. “We do want to grow our tax base, our evaluations,” Schumacher said. “I think I have a creative approach to solutions.”
Anderson noted his many years as a farmer in the county and position as assistant soil conservation commissioner among his qualifications. He said he had served on three state boards, was president of the Seasons Center board for seven years and had worked hard on economic development and the E-911 boards.
Beaver noted his 28 years of experience working with county secondary roads and eight years as a supervisor. He said about a third of the county budget went for county roads. “I feel that I bring that experience to the supervisors,” Beaver said.
Beaver also cited his experience sitting on the corrections board in Sioux City, the RIDES board, ECOG board and Emmet County Kinship. “You’ve got to make decisions and to be willing to not make everybody happy at the time,” Beaver said.
Juhl noted her 24 years of experience as auditor. She said at times she has had to explain the board’s decisions.
“I would like to be a part of making those decisions,” she said.
In closing comments, Beaver said, “I’ve learned a lot.”
“I want to commend the people that are running for the position here,” he said. He hoped that people would vote for the candidates and not along political party lines.
“I enjoy working with people,” said Anderson. “I’m very approachable. I have a lot of experience, insight and leadership.”
Schumacher cited his over 20 years in education. He said his strength was the “ability to work with people on a friendly courteous basis.”
“I want to be a bridge or a connection” for all of Emmet County, Madden said.
Juhl said she was retiring after 24 years as auditor and if elected would try her very best to make good judgments and decisions.
“It’s the whole county,” Juhl said. “Everybody in the county should be able to contact any one of the supervisors.”