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County Commissioner candidates answer questions

By Staff | Oct 21, 2016

[NOTE: The following Q&A is with District 2 candidates Mike Christenson (incumbent) and Brad Odden (challenger) and District 4 candidates Terry Grove and Terry Hoffert. Answers come from a questionnaire sheet submitted to the candidates by the Tribune, and have been edited for spelling, punctuation and clarity.]

1. Why are you running for a seat on the County Commission?

MC: I would like to continue working for the residents of District 2 and Pierce County. I feel that with my experience I can make tough decisions that come before the commissioners.

BO: I have been raised and educated in Pierce County making my home in Rugby with my family in 1989. My wife, Laurie, and I have two children, Keylee who graduated from Rugby High School and currently attends North Dakota State University and Kyler who currently attends Rugby High School. Laurie is a Senior Community Manager for the American Cancer Society and I own and operate Brad’s Towing and Auto Repair. As a lifelong community member I care about the future of Pierce County.

I believe in public service. As a forward-looking candidate, I will bring new ideas, approaches, and perspective to the commission and seek to adopt new techniques and technologies to increase efficiency, reduce costs, improve transparency, and encourage greater accountability. This approach will lead to a better informed and involved community.

Those currently serving the people or intending to enter public service face challenges including budgetary pressures and a growing demand for financial accountability, combined with the community’s expectations of improved and expanding services. To meet the demands of the community’s expectations requires educated, trained, and experienced leadership that is willing to listen to the citizens and encourage public input. As a forward-looking candidate, I will bring new ideas, approaches, and perspective to the county board and seek to adopt new techniques and technologies to increase efficiency, reduce costs, improve transparency, and encourage greater accountability. This approach will lead to a better informed and involved community.

TG: I believe that one needs to serve humanity. As in the past and present I have served on the JC, Church, Eagles and Rugby Gymnastics boards. While serving on the Gymnastic for 30 years it was the goal of the board to: Provide youth programs and make the cost affordable to all youth in the community. Being a County Commissioner and serving the people of our community is something that I am very interested in.

TH: Because I believe that I can be a strong voice for the people in times of a slowing economy and work to solve some of the issues that face our city and county today and in times to come.

2. What issue or issues do you see as important to the district you intend to serve?

MC: Keeping our roads safe and in good shape with a limited budget. We need to maintain a good relationship between the county and the city. Hiring and keeping employees is very important. I would like to help keep our county a safe and prosperous place to raise a family.

BO: Social Services and the benefits Social Services brings to the elderly and our youth; to insure the continued services and to promote expanded services for mental health and treatment which both affect children in our community.

Property tax relief: With the financial situation of the state, we as a county are going to need to identify areas to save money as to not burden the tax payer any further, possibly researching and applying for federal grants that are available.

Rural roads: We need to maintain and improve our rural road network and condition for the safety of our rural neighbors and ag community to insure the safe and speedy transportation of our commodities. Moneys to improve our roads are available through FEMA funds and funds through the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

TG: Duane Johnston has done a great job representing District 4. Working many issues. Along with the other board members we will work current and new issues as they occur. Currently I follow the County Commissioners report in the Tribune to keep up with open issues.

TH: To control rising taxes; fixing roads that Mother Nature and heavy traffic have taken its toll on. Also unification of city and county governments.

3. What kind of experience do you have in a government or community board setting?

MC: I have been a county commissioner for 12 years. I currently serve on the Social Service Board, the Lake Region District Health Board, the Pierce County Weed Board and the Planning & Zoning Board. I am a 45-year member of the Clarence Larson American Legion Post 23 in Rugby, and a U.S. Army veteran.

BO: I have served on the Rugby Emergency Ambulance Board, Rural Fire Department, Knights of Columbus, past president of the Rugby Eagles and I am a current Trustee, Rugby Gymnastics board, a member of the Rugby Amateur Hockey Association and a member of the Rugby Chamber of Commerce.

I have been a taxpayer in the City of Rugby and Pierce County for thirty (30) plus years. During this time I have also operated a business resulting in keeping business local and contributing to Rugby’s sales tax base.

TG: As stated earlier I have worked on several boards in the community. The Rugby Eagles, for example, was a business that was struggling. Other board members, trustees and myself set up a plan to work with community organizations on their events. These events would bring them extra income for their programs, which also provided income for the Eagles Club.

TH: I have never been involved with government politics before, but [I] served on and worked with the Eagles board for 13 years. I also served on the Catholic Financial board for 15 years.

4. What personal qualities of yours do you think will help you get things done as a county commissioner?

MC: I look at both sides of an issue and gather information to help make wise decisions. I feel that I have the ability to relate to people of all age groups.

BO: I recognize there is a growing demand for financial accountability, combined with the community’s expectations of improved and expanding services. To meet the demands of the community’s expectations requires experienced leadership and a person to serve with honesty, transparency, integrity, and conviction that is willing to listen to the citizens and encourage public input. I am that candidate.

TG: 1.I have a 40 year background with working and training hundreds of people . Policies and procedures are very important when working with people to achieve goals. While working with other members of management we set forth such programs as SQDIC. SQDIC stands for Safely, Quality, Delivery, Income and Cost. I was a leader for this program. I’m certified in Qualify Programs AS9000, 9001, 9002 and ZEB [Zero Escape Bench], meaning if something is wrong, what [needs] to be put in place so that it never happens again.

TH: I have lived in Rugby for 60 years and have worked here for 40 plus years. I am a hard-working, honest person who has strong public relations, [and] an ability to work with other people.

5. With the state experiencing budget woes, what financial decisions do you feel will be important for the county in the future?

MC: With the oil impact money from the state, we were able to complete several large road projects without raising our budget. With state funding now being cut, we will have to look at ways to maintain basic services without raising taxes.

BO: As stated above to ensure Social Services benefits and programs continue and improve and to maintain the rural roads and bridges.

The sustainability of the Heart of America Correctional Center is of concern in the near future. The facility is currently showing a profit and often at full occupancy which is a benefit to the community as it is a tax relief for the citizens and employs approximately forty (40) employees. In the near future, multiple new corrections centers across the state will be coming online to include: Bottineau, Rolla, Minot, Williston, Bismarck, and Watford City. This will affect the future sustainability of the current business plan of the Correctional Center and we, as a county commission, need to work with the Sheriff and Director of the facility for a future business plan to ensure the sustainability of the facility so the facility continues to provide tax relief and employment which is vital to our community.

TG: When working with tax payers dollars one needs to have a good mind set. Meaning you need to use the money for services the people are paying for. I believe it is important to have set-a-side money for unplanned events that may occur. That way money would be available when needed and people would not see large tax increases when more dollars are needed.

TH: Trying to keep the tax base in check and still fund the issues that are very important to our county.

6. Why do you feel Pierce County voters should elect you?

MC: I have experience dealing with the Wind Farm project, four different flood events and working closely with FEMA. District 2 has over 150 miles of roads that I help maintain. I worked in construction for many years as a heavy equipment operator, and I know about road maintenance and equipment. I farm and ranch in the middle of District 2 and have the time it takes to be a county commissioner.

BO: I am an active community voice for the residents of Pierce County and Ward II. I will provide fair, honest, and open representation. I believe Pierce County can improve facilitating and encouraging community input and dialogue. An informed public is an involved public. The residents are a representative’s greatest resource.

TG: I think people should vote for me because the basics I have learned though my work life will aide with the job of being a county commissioner.

TH: Because I am a strong listener who will be a voice for the people and make sure their concerns are heard, and will resolve issues and problems as they arise.

7. Is there anything else you think should be mentioned?

MC: I would like to thank all the employees of Pierce County for the good job that they have done. I would like to thank the voters for all of the support in the past.

BO: I am asking for the residents of Ward II’s vote because I will work hard to serve the residents by listening to their concerns and will be a strong and active community voice. I believe in planning for the future for future generations, open communication, and being approachable. I look forward to further serving the community that is the home of my family and I. Public service was embedded in me by my parents, and I will make decisions to ensure county services are maintained and improved and that citizens of Pierce County are treated fairly.

TG: I think being a county commissioner would be a great job and I have the time to fulfill the obligation required.

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