HJ - Standard Page County Courthouse

Five candidates for the Page County Board of Supervisor district 1 seat introduced themselves Saturday, March 14 at the county Republican Party convention.

Jeff Brownfield, Jacob Holmes, Mark Marriott, Beth Steeve and Darin Sunderman will be on the June 2 primary ballot to replace Jon Herzberg for the seat. Herzberg will not run for another term after first being elected in 2004. The district represents the county except for the towns of Clarinda and Shenandoah.

Whoever wins June 2 will have their name on the general election ballot in November against Tim Johnson, who is running unaffiliated.

The other contested seat for June is held by Chuck Morris who is finishing his first term as supervisor for district 3, which essentially includes the town of Clarinda. Judy Kennedy is running against Morris.

Page County Newspapers was considering a county supervisor candidate forum before the primary, but the threat of COVID-19 and the closure of the schools, the best place to hold a forum, ended that idea.

So sending the candidates some questions to answer was our COVID-19 free, plan B. This is the second of two weeks of questions-and-answers. The responses of district 3 candidates Kennedy and Morris appeared in the May 7 edition of the Clarinda Herald-Journal along with district 1 candidate Brownfield. The remaining four candidates for district 1 are featured this week.

Page County Auditor Melissa Wellhausen said voters received multiple mailings of absentee ballot request forms. Voters only need to complete one request form to receive a ballot. Wellhausen joins Secretary of State Paul Pate and auditors across Iowa in encouraging voters to cast absentee ballots by mail in the June 2 Primary Election. During the COVID-19 pandemic, voting by mail is the safest option.

Many Page County residents received the Secretary of State’s absentee ballot request form last week in their mailboxes. It includes pre-paid postage for returning the request to Wellhausen’s office.

If voters have already mailed an absentee ballot request form, from the Page County Auditor’s previous mailing, they do not need to complete another request.

For more information about the June 2 primary, go online to VoterReady.Iowa.gov or www.co.page.ia.us.

Jacob Holmes

I am the oldest of seven children, born and raised on the farm working with cattle, hogs, and crop production. Faith was very important to my family and my growing up, and I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior at 5 years old. After graduation, I earned my degree from Southeast Community College in Milford, Nebraska. From there, I worked as a machinist designing and building for a variety of companies. This allowed me a way to save money during a bad farm economy, and enabled me to jump at the chance of full-time farming when a neighbor approached my brother and I about renting his farm.

From that point on, the majority of my work has been in agriculture. From row crop, to livestock production, to seed sales, I have run a variety of successful businesses within this sector. I also worked as a substitute rural mail carrier for seven years. The combination made by this variety of experiences----- self employed, sales, working with companies and working for the government----has helped me to gain a wide variety of experiences to pull from in making things the most efficient and cost effective they can be.

I married Kaitlynn in 2008. From 2010 to 2018, God blessed our family with five wonderful children-----two boys and three girls. We live on our farm near College Springs and enjoy working to improve and add to it every day.

From a young age, I have taken a strong stance on moral and conservative fiscal issues. While I never intended to run for supervisor, I do have a long time interest in government. My first involvement was my being elected to the school board in my hometown prior to being married or having children. I ran for this position based on the fiscal irresponsibility taking place. This is one of main aspects that has led me to run for Page County Supervisor. I have also worked within Page County in the elected position of Amity Township Clerk. I have also stood at a variety of meetings and boards over the years to speak for what I believe. Much of that was focused on several backdoor efforts of Planned Parenthood attempting to establish a presence in Page County.

I hope to add to this biography in the future, if elected, that I was a supervisor who helped usher Page County Iowa into a stable, fiscally responsible, bright future.

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

Although the question asks for the first two things I would address as supervisor…..I truly can’t narrow it down to less than three. One of my top issues is our county’s wind ordinance, but since that is addressed in a separate question, I will address the other two here: (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 currently 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 fear this has not been thought out well enough beyond the economic cost. For example, the county is going to be required to build 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 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 valuation 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 toward more equal representation. I am an advocate for, and am collecting signatures for a petition to move our county to a five-member supervisor board. As it stands, there is one representative for the entirety of the small towns and rural residents of Page County. This is a burden that is impossible to fairly and thoroughly represents who are paying property taxes to the county. A five member board would do wonders for the equal representation of each and every town and citizen of our county.

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, 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 land owner 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 front door of an already inhabited house. 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 landowner to permanently change the safety and use of his neighbor’s land. 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 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. 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 five years. This is a generational decision. 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. 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. I hope to have moved to adding two more members to the board of supervisors, creating better and more even representation for every area of our county. At the end of my term, the five-member 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 be in the evening when the majority of people can actually consider attending.

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!!

Mark Marriott

I am Mark Marriott my wife Sabrina and I live in Essex. We both grew up in Page County. I graduated from Clarinda and Sabrina from Shenandoah.

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

The two most important things that I think need to be addressed are the roads and bringing new business to our county. We need to develop a program that focuses on improving our roads instead of just getting by and being unsafe. Encourage and support start-up and existing rural and home-based business while providing safe travels to and from them.

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

It is important to remember that Page County is comprised of many towns and rural areas and their voice needs to be heard and included in our decisions. Availability is key. Face-to-face or electronic meetings and communications. Keep the door open.The board serves the whole county and by sharing the available resources we all grow and prosper. As the country is changing, many opportunities will surface so we need to be willing to look outside the box.

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

This is a very controversial topic, I know that the revenue for the county and the schools can be very good, but it has to work for everyone and not infringe on each other’s land use or safety. They as well need to maintain social distancing. We also need to take into consideration any waste disposal from the maintenance of the blades and any other portions that would over-load our landfill.

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

I think that this is a project that has been long put off because of financing but will probably be mandated at some point. We will need to find whatever grant assistance is available, state, federal, even private and check other revenues without raising any taxes. We need to continue discussions and explorations while making decisions with caution. Research and make knowledgeable decisions.

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

As we now know economies and lives can be changed in a very short time, and it will take some time to find a new normal, but I would like to vision more businesses in our county. We have room and people to help bring America back home. Safe well maintained roads for our families to travel and for people to start home based business with good roads for customers to travel. …. Sustainability and accountability.

Bethany Foster Steeve

I am a Clarinda native, a graduate of Clarinda High School. I went to college in California and lived there 25 years. I worked in the mortgage loan industry, where I worked through all phases of origination, packaging and approval, negotiating with borrowers and underwriters.

In Iowa I have worked in the insurance industry, primarily with Thrivent Financial, and most recently as an account representaive with Shenandoah Valley News, leaving that position in March. My work at Shenandoah Valley News required the ability to work independently, to listen to what my customers wanted and to help them get those things within the framework of what we had to offer.

My career has well prepared me to serve as a part of your supervisory team in Page County. I am self-motivated, able to assess situations and make independent decisions. I am team-oriented and value the different viewpoints of others.

I have served on many boards including holding all major offices of the Clarinda Kiwanis, as well as many committees at St John Lutheran Church. I am currently president of the Page County Endowment Board.

The Page County Board of Supervisors will have my complete commitment.

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

Assuming I win the seat, my focus will be to address two issues that are currently at the forefront in Page County; county roads and employment opportunities.

Our rural county roads are the subject of a lot of concern. The board has had to make some tough decisions about road surfaces and maintenance issues. Upgrading quality of rock and more thorough training of the grader drivers might offer some improvement. Better communication with residents would allow for more ideas to be taken into consideration.

Employment base is critical in rural areas. We are fortunate to have some stable, major employment centers: hospitals in both Shenandoah and Clarinda, Green Plains, Lisles, Lloyd Inc., NSK, Pella, to name a few. We still have four school districts. We have our car dealers, service businesses, grocery stores and agri-business.

With all of these opportunities it would seem that every single person looking for a job should have something suitable from which to choose. But the big business of the century – and our Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted it – is online work. Today’s online workforce has the opportunity for full-time work with benefits. The key is fast, reliable, wired-in internet.

Some jobs just aren’t available locally. What we need to move into this lucrative market is internet service. Some homes have excellent service. If you live in towns where you have the opportunity to shop services – meaning there is more than one offered - there are competitive options. But living even a few miles out of town will slow your service and decrease your opportunity. For most places in rural Page County, rural internet service is limited to satellite service and speeds are often too slow to qualify for these jobs.

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

Cooperation within our county and towns relies on communication. Shenandoah and Clarinda are the two largest communities, but we also have incorporated towns of Blanchard, Braddyville, Coin, College Springs, Essex, Hepburn, Northboro, Yorktown and Shambaugh, plus people outside Page that routinely shop and use our services. Emergency services are already coordinated, but these communities offer socials and fundraisers to help pay for maintenance. A quarterly conference including all communities would allow them to voice concerns and needs and opinions.

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

The wind turbine and solar industries will continue knocking on our door. The important thing to remember is that the county supervisors have very limited control of these land rights issues. The sad truth in Iowa is that one person’s right to do something does not protect his neighbor’s right to not do the same thing. The role of the supervisors is to provide information and create an environment of informed decision. No one exists in a vacuum.

I believe the aggressive, early use of public forum has made a difference in the windmill issue. The combination of input from people who talked to the windmill companies directly and shared that information, and the meetings have allowed landowners to ask more questions, and look at the issue more critically. I would definitely have supported the meetings that the supervisors facilitated.

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

The county jail is an issue that we will probably have to begin investigating during the next term. There is pressure because our jail is now one of the oldest in southwest Iowa. Taylor, Montgomery and Fremont County all have new jails in the last decade. Changing regulations and needs are going to make it hard to avoid following suit.

If specific services are needed and hard to find in rural areas, or not addressed by the other counties, perhaps that is something that could be used to give our jail more income, and more reimbursable uses. Grant money seems to be the watchword of our public services, so researching grants and other funding options will be important.

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

My vision for Page County is that we are able to maintain the small town, rural beauty of our county and still have access to work and health services that allows us to be part of the American Dream.

Our isolation and the oversight of our leaders have kept the horror of the Covid – 19 virus in check here, and it reminds us all that it is ok to be “off the grid!”

My focus will always be on information and feedback. Education allows people to make informed decisions, and feedback offers insights and maybe new options.

Darin Sunderman

I am Darin Sunderman and I live in the rural area southeast of Clarinda. I farm and am currently employed as the Page County Sanitarian. My wife, Connie, and I raised three children who now are all young adults and we have two grandchildren.

I decided to run for supervisor because I feel at this point in my life I would now be able to dedicate the time necessary that the position requires. I would like to point out that If I were to be elected I would transition out of the sanitarian role and help train a new person to fill that position.

Since graduating high school, I have farmed and worked in the county at my jobs. At NRCS I was a district technician and also served as the West Tarkio Watershed coordinator after the retirement of Ron Sanson. position.

Over the years I have served on several different boards. Some of those include, positions in our church, Clarinda Lutheran School board, Clarinda Co-op board, which is now Agriland FS, and currently on the Clarinda Community School District public school board.

I feel my past experiences would be beneficial and translate directly to the type of work the supervisors are involved with. If anyone would like to visit with me or have questions feel free to contact me at 712-308-2828 and we can have a conversation.

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

If I am elected in November, the first item of importance to me would be to focus on the county budget. Individual departments begin the budget development process in December, with initial presentations to the board beginning in January. With the short timeline I feel it would be important to research and familiarize myself with each department’s historical budgetary needs and current trends. I have developed and presented the environmental health budget which does give me experience in the process. With the possibility of lower revenues this fiscal year due to Coronavirus issues, it will be important to look for places where we can be more efficient. Another topic I would like to work on is long-range planning and goal setting, not only for buildings and grounds, roads but also staffing. This has proven helpful to me in the past because it gives all involved a picture of what you are working towards and gives direction for decision making.

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

Building trust through good relationships is something I feel is very important. I think it is true in our personal lives and it translates to our professional interactions as well. I would start by attending the council meeting of all communities in Page County during my first months in office. This would begin the process for me to listen and gain insight on what each town feels they need or would like to see improved on by the county. I have worked in all areas of the county through my jobs since 2001 and during that time I always treated everyone the same no matter where they were from. This experience would help me in working with the towns to see if there are things that can be improved. In my experiences, I have found it is most important to listen to get a clear understanding of what someone is asking or concerned about before making a decision.

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

Wind turbine construction like many topics, brings differing opinions from both sides of the issue. I attended the public forums in Clarinda and Shenandoah and also several board meetings when the topic was discussed. It was good to hear what people had to say both for and against the current ordinance that is in place. As an agriculture producer I work with and under the guidance of several different agencies such as EPA, USDA and DNR. All of the different agencies have some sort of regulation and guidance to follow. Regulations involving livestock production from the DNR base setback distances from a residence as does the county ordinance. The current ordinance in regard to wind energy systems is available on the county website. I would encourage people to read it if they are interested. When you are creating policies or ordinances it is always important to conduct research and base your decisions on fact based proven information. Working closely with your legal counsel during the process is critical to ensure policies and ordinances are legal, fair and equitable. Decisions should be based on the information you have at the time. If new or different information becomes available later then you can take that into consideration and make any necessary changes. I feel private landowners should have the right to choose what they do with their property as long as they follow reasonable government regulation. For these reasons I believe the current ordinance is sufficient at this time.

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

The jail facility is a good example why I believe some forward planning sessions would be beneficial. This would allow for needs to be assessed and give all stakeholders involved a chance for input before moving forward. I do feel it would be best to wait until the bonds are paid off for the radio communication upgrade that was done a few years ago before entering into another major construction project. After that is complete I would like to see if some funds can begin to be set aside over a time period to prepare for a project. I think working with the sheriff’s department and others to determine the needs of a new facility are an important first step in the planning process. There have been several new jail facilities built in the surrounding areas over the last few years and I think they would be a good resource to tour and visit about what they like or would change if they could do it again.

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

At the end of my term I would work hard to ensure that the county as a whole would be in good financial condition, and the infrastructure condition in all areas would be improved to our best ability. I feel our county is a great place to live and has a lot of positive things happening. I realize there will be challenges as well as opportunities in the future, with that being said I think it is important to step back and look for the positive in situations and not just dwell on the negative. The current health situation we are all dealing with is difficult, I believe our communities are doing a great job of working together and we will become stronger and better.

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