Three Democrats, three Republicans vie for chance to lead Polk County

Published 3:05 pm Monday, November 3, 2008

For the first time in years Polk Democrats have a chance to not only gain a majority on the board, if at least one of their candidates is selected, but to potentially fill all five seats if all three Democrats are chosen.Currently, the board has three Republicans (Harry Denton, Ted Owens and Tom Pack) and two Democrats (chair Tommy Melton and Warren Watson).

Denton was defeated in the Republican primary by Moore, who joins incumbents Owens and Pack in trying to retain Republican control of the Polk board.

The Democratic candidates, Ray Gasperson, Renee McDermott and Cindy Walker, are trying to continue their party&squo;s reemergence in county politics. Before Watson and Melton were elected, all five seats on the county board were filled by Republicans.

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The six candidates competing in this year&squo;s election took time recently to answer more questions from the Bulletin about their plans for the county if they are elected. Their answers are provided below.&bsp;Editor&squo;s note: The six candidates for the Polk County Board of Commissioners addressed more issues facing the county in another set of questions issued by the Bulletin recently. The three Democratic and three Republican candidates are vying for three open seats on the 5-member county board, which currently includes three Republicans and two Democrats. Republican candidates Ted Owens and Tom Pack are incumbents.

Unemployment in Polk County remains below the statewide average, but it has been on the rise this year, reaching 5.3 percent in August, the highest it has been in more than six years. What specific measures do you propose to create jobs in the county, or at least to avoid further increases in unemployment during a period of potential economic decline?

Gasperson (D): A broad based local economy made up of a large number of small businesses (i.e. 1-10 employees) would be ideal. Even though we already have many businesses in this category, we must at all times have a coordinated effort between our economic development council and the county commissioners so that we can continue to build on this strong foundation.

Light industry will always be a good fit. An old vacant manufacturing building may provide a perfect location for several small businesses (i.e. crafts producers, light manufacturing, etc.) from which to set up shop and start producing goods and services. Perhaps our local government could help in finding grants or provide structures (like a section of an old plant building) at reasonable rents to help small businesses get started. Also, encouraging the expansion of farming and providing goods and services to the ever growing equestrian community will not only fit perfectly with the desire of our citizens to keep Polk County rural, this can also provide many living wage jobs.McDermott (D): I support the approach Lynn Sprague, our agricultural economic development director, is starting. He&squo;s assessing our agricultural assets, including assets that aren&squo;t currently being used, such as the greenhouses on Capps Road. Sprague is finding grant sources to allow people to put those assets back into service or into better service. He&squo;s on the right track, building on Polk County&squo;s existing strengths: the agricultural and equestrian business communities.

I support asset-based economic development, a strategy that builds on existing resources ‐ natural, cultural and structural‐to create valued products and services that can be sustained for local benefit.

I support completing work on making Polk County a Certified Entrepreneurial Community, building the networks that create and sustain small businesses, overall the largest employment source in the country.

We must curtail drug use. One area employer has said that jobs remain open when potential employees can&squo;t pass the required drug test.Moore (R): We must challenge our EDC director to continue work on securing small businesses to locate to our county, keeping in mind to protect our rural heritage and mountain tops. James Tool is a great example of this. These businesses need to have a low impact. We have citizens in this county that want to live and work here. As commissioner I will support our EDC director to the fullest in order to bring jobs to our county and citizens.Owens (R): Preparing a workforce for the challenges of a changing economy will always need to be a top priority for local government. It is not possible for this to happen without partners such as Isothermal Community College, the Small Business Center and organizations such as JobLink. Our changing economy and the shift away from manufacturing jobs presents new opportunities to help define the needs for an adequate workforce of the 21st century. Knowledge based economy is the term often used to describe where the jobs will be in the coming years. I could add to this that innovation and entrepreneurial development which places an emphasis on the worker not necessarily on the business. Recruiting entrepreneurial talent to a community is as important today as business recruiting was 20 years ago. By building a strong local economy and growing our economy one small business at a time, we are able to strengthen our community foundation in a way that is comparable to locating a small manufacturing plant here.

Working in partnership with Advantage West, the department of commerce and private industry, we are able to put the local resources where they will do the most good and through proper benchmarking, make sure each year we are reevaluating our progress and growing the local economy. Enhancing our local economy and giving innovations and small businesses the resources they need and removing barriers to creative problem solving will create conditions in Polk County where jobs will be created and we as a community can move forward.Pack (R): We need to continue working with the EDC to attract small businesses that are low impact. We accomplished this with bringing James Tool to Polk County. Now James Tool is buying the building from the county. I suggested and the board of commissioners agreed to reinvest this money back into the same program to attract other small businesses. With James Tool we simply bought a building and leased to them at the going rate. Once James Tool was financially able they purchased the building from the county. Polk County has a lot to offer the small business owner in the quality of life that we have. We need to continue to promote this along with making sound investments in helping them move to Polk County to create the jobs so our children can grow up and work in Polk County.Walker (D): As we walked through the Grover Industries Tryon Plant with Gary Simmel last week, looking at the now-still winding machines, the empty dye pots and the spacious loading dock once filled with millions of dollars worth of yarn, dye and chemicals, an eerie sadness fell over our group. This grand building which once housed over a hundred workers, fed their families, clothed their children and heard their stories at the break room tables, is now silent. Like a wake, we quietly pondered yet one more death of an industry that has left our community forever.

As we say goodbye to a part of our heritage, the textile industry, we may best pay tribute by rolling up our sleeves and preparing for our future. As we turn this big ship around, we must shift our thinking, help our workers retrain for other professions before the plant doors close, define trends, and actively assist individuals through our high school and community college small business learning opportunities.

We can keep our wallets close to home by seeking products and services within a 50-mile radius of our homes and when we experience success with local merchants and service folks, we can engage in the most cost-effective form of advertisement ‐ word of mouth ‐ ask for two business cards and pass one along.&bsp; Creating jobs alone may not be enough. Some Polk residents, including some employees of the county, have said wages are not sufficient to afford the relatively high cost of living here, particularly high real estate values. What would you do specifically to attract and retain good-paying jobs? What would you do to help create more affordable housing for both lower and middle income residents?

Gasperson (D): Throughout my campaign, I have advocated that we must hire qualified people to be Polk County employees, and that they also must be paid a &dquo;living wage&dquo; that takes into account the high cost of living in this county. Paying County employees appropriately will reduce turnover, and provide a more experienced and knowledgeable staff which will ultimately result in saving the county money.

As we develop our comprehensive land use plan, I will advocate that we need to define the price range of affordable housing. Locating these homes closer to our towns where water, sewer, and other services are already in place makes sense. I believe that the county government should help provide incentives to builders encouraging them to construct affordable housing.McDermott (D): We can best attract good-paying jobs by creating an excellent work force and keeping our county rural, beautiful and a good recreational destination. Those are the things that most attract employers to a location. We need to work with the elementary and secondary schools and ICC to keep all students in school through graduation and to provide post graduation training for the high tech jobs of today and of the future. We need to continue encouraging, and supporting, entrepreneurial activity, possibly with a business incubator.

For affordable housing, I would try making major subdivisions a &dquo;conditional use,&dquo; with one condition being providing various levels of affordable housing within the subdivision or at a separate location. I would also encourage developers to create &dquo;rural villages,&dquo; like the towns of old, with a village square, small commercial establishments and a wide range of housing prices. We need new, creative ideas.Moore (R): As noted in the previous question, we need to bring small businesses to the county. We must work with the developers of larger subdivisions to encourage them to build a certain number of affordable homes, that our residents can afford to buy and can live in Polk County to work, play and attend church.Owens (R):This board has authorized a salary study to be conducted and the results of this study will be available in time for adjustments to be made in the next budget. Meanwhile all county employees will get a 2.5 percent increase January 1, 2009, for total of 4.5 percent for the year. This also increases the hiring salary median. Affordable housing is something we need to put much attention to. I support the idea of having developers set aside some lots and or houses that can be sold as affordable. One part of the comprehensive plan should be directed to solving this issue. Pack (R): Again, going after small businesses as I stated in my answer to the prior question that can provide good paying jobs such as the success we had with James Tool. In regards to the affordable housing issue I think the completion of our comprehensive plan will identify certain areas where we can have higher density for homes that sit on smaller lots. I am also working to submit a proposal to give developers of large subdivisions certain concessions on their large subdivision if they will also build a number of affordable homes at another location in the county that we have deemed appropriate for higher density. Asheville presently does this to some extent and we need to follow suit. I think the timing has to wait until we have the comprehensive plan that shows where it is suitable for the higher density for these affordable houses.&bsp; We also have to answer the question as to what is affordable housing. I am sure everyone has their opinion but we need to define this to a dollar amount.Walker (D): We must continue to establish relationships with the businesses we have here now, assist them in their needs, help them look for ways to create synergies among other local businesses so that they can support one another, share compatible services, and increase sales. We must vigorously protect our quality of life and our natural surroundings to attract new businesses. We must work closely, over time, with our economic and agricultural development directors, so that we might draw prospective small businesses, entrepreneurs and self employed individuals into our community.

The affordable housing issue, like job growth, requires innovative thinking, solid planning, and vast quantities of elbow grease. In order to avoid our typical Polk County &squo;stall out&squo;: death by contemplation, I would suggest that our newly hired planning firm along with the citizen&squo;s oversight committee place this item high on their list of priorities. We may even want to appoint a workforce housing coalition as in Transylvania County where they are working on a joint collaboration with the school system whereby they put land into a community trust and their high school students build houses or condominiums for teachers. They have sent a bill to the general assembly to form a land trust for teacher housing, according to &uot;The program will be broad enough that any other municipality can come in under the umbrella of the legislation and also take advantage of it.&dquo;Polk County currently has a 7-acre minimum for new major subdivisions. Some residents have applauded the minimum as a means of achieving its intended goal of protecting groundwater supplies and preserving the county&squo;s rural character. Others have said the minimum is extreme and will curtail or even halt growth, eventually hurting the local economy. Do you support maintaining the 7-acre minimum for major subdivisions without public water, and a 5-acre minimum for subdivisions with public water?

Gasperson (D): Until the completion of a comprehensive land use plan, I will continue to support the current major subdivision acreage requirements. As has been often stated, the current ordinance has served as a stop-gap measure. As we develop the land use plan, it will be important to identify what the appropriate major and minor subdivision lot sizes should be for the various communities in our county. However, I believe that family subdivisions should likely fall in a special category that would perhaps allow for even smaller lot sizes. Also, perhaps it would be appropriate to allow much smaller lot sizes near towns or in village like settings near current denser populated areas in the county in order to encourage more affordable housing. Clearly, one template should not be imposed on the entire county, but rather tailored to meet the needs of each unique community.

As we develop our comprehensive land use plan, I will advocate that we need to define the price range of affordable housing. Locating these homes closer to our towns where water, sewer, and other services are already in place makes sense. I believe that the county government should help provide incentives to builders encouraging them to construct affordable housing.McDermott (D): The 7-acre minimum could have been a good stopgap measure, a substitute for the moratorium for which Polk County couldn&squo;t qualify because it hadn&squo;t established the basis for one. But the 7-acre minimum was poorly thought out, not enacted properly, and resulted in litigation against the county. It&squo;s rumored that the lawsuit was settled by agreeing to free the developer who sued from the 7-acre minimum. A second, threatened lawsuit is said to have been settled the same way.

Polk County needs a sound housing density ordinance that scientifically ties allowed density in subdivisions to groundwater sustainability. That was recommended in the 2004 Land Use Plan, but the planning board stripped out the scientific basis for it. The incumbent commissioners failed to restore it.&bsp; Now that water lines are being built in Polk County, better protections need to be put in place, promptly, to protect against dense residential and commercial development.Moore (R): I do support the current 7-acre minimum that our current board has put in place. If any changes need to be made we need to wait until the comprehensive plan is completed. If a change is needed we should always keep in in mind, that we must protect our rural heritage.Owens (R): At present I do. However, if the economy continues to slow down it may be necessary to look at this again. The county needs some growth if we are going to have good paying jobs and affordable housing. The biggest difference this time is that we should make sure we have planned growth as a result of the comprehensive plan.Pack (R): I support having the higher acreage in the major subdivisions until we have the comprehensive plan completed that can show areas where higher density may be appropriate. But if the comprehensive plan calls for changes we need to make sure we still protect our rural character. When I proposed the change to increase the acreage in major subdivisions I purposely left the small and family subdivision acreage much smaller to help address the affordability issue.&bsp; Walker (D): I support a comprehensive land use plan which takes into account the environmental, cultural, social and economic needs of our community. I further support implementation of a solid, healthy plan through ordinances and regulations that will give &dquo;lift off&dquo; to our comprehensive land use recommendations. The 7-acre minimum was just a start, planning is a dynamic process, not a singular event.&bsp; The county is completing a property tax revaluation that&squo;s expected to show higher property tax values than in the last revaluation in 2001. Current county commissioners have indicated they plan to make the revaluation revenue neutral, meaning they will lower the tax rate to fully offset the higher property values. If the revaluation is made revenue neutral, owners of property that increases above the county average will face a tax increase, while owners of property that increases less than the county average will see a tax decrease. Do you support making the revaluation revenue neutral, leaving the rate unchanged or making some other adjustment to produce either a net tax cut or tax hike for the county? Please explain what impact you believe your decision will have on the county&squo;s budget and its spending needs.

Gasperson (D): I will attempt to keep the tax rate as close to revenue neutral as possible. A greater hope that I have is that our county government services can be made more efficient so that a tax cut can be achieved. However, it&squo;s important to realize that until the next fiscal year&squo;s budget has been formulated, starting with budget workshops during March thru June, and the final budget adopted by June 30, 2009, it will be impossible to set the appropriate tax rate.

With rare exceptions, nearly all properties have gone up in value since the last revaluation in 2001. The 2008 revaluation will set the values at 100 percent of the current market value. Since the goal will be to make the revaluation as close as possible to revenue neutral, all property tax payers should see a reduction (most likely significant) in their property tax rate.McDermott (D): The purpose of revaluation is periodically to reassess property values to ensure fairness among all the taxpayers. Applying the same standards to all properties, more improved properties are valued higher; depreciated properties are valued lower. This creates current, relative fairness among real property owners.

I support making the revaluation revenue neutral. Some candidates say they will lower taxes without knowing what the county&squo;s future circumstances will be. That&squo;s irresponsible. The economy is in turmoil. The state has notified us that sales tax revenues will be down. The same candidates pledge to install a county-wide water system using taxes (rather than water system revenues) for capital costs that could reach $8,000,000 for just the first of seven phases. The Palmer-Jervey building needs to be replaced.

Revenue neutrality in the current economic situation should allow a similar budget next year or, if the economy continues to decline, a budget that is leaner.Moore (R): I fully support making the tax rate revenue neutral and if possible lower! Revenues coming into the county have been above budget the last couple of years. Two of the Republican commissioners (Ted Owens and Tom Pack) voted for a tax cut for the citizens of this county,the other Republican and two Democrats voted against giving our citzens that tax cut.Owens (R): Two years ago at a commissioners&39; budget workshop I was the first to bring up that we needed to plan budgets so that we can make this revaluation revenue neutral. I will only vote for a revenue neutral budget and since we have approx. $7 million in fund balance and because this board has used good sound business principles to operate the county&squo;s business it should have little or no impact on the county&squo;s budget. Pack (R): I support making the tax rate revenue neutral or lower. In the last couple of years we have had above budgeted revenues coming into the county coffers. Ted Owens and I tried to give some of this excess revenue back to the citizens in the form of a tax cut two years ago. Unfortunately for the citizens we did not have the support of the other three commissioners in doing this. This is why I have voted against the budget for the last two years as it did not give these excess monies back to the people. Even with a tax cut we can still afford to move forward with needed capital projects as we have shown in the last couple of years with projects we have approved and moved forward with. Walker (D): I support making the revaluation revenue neutral and assisting those adversely affected by sharing information and opportunities that are available to them through consultation with our tax assessor and the appeal process. The impact of this decision may result in the tightening of our budgetary belts. Increasing our efficiency, rather than reducing services, will achieve the needed balance should this become necessary. When we get it right the first time, avoid costly shortcuts, reduce our waste, maintain our properties, and respect our workers- we save money, time and resources.&bsp; Would you support a countywide law enforcement agency headed by someone appointed by the Polk County Board of Commissioners? The change would result in the consolidation of county and municipal police operations and a significant reduction in the role of the sheriff&squo;s office.

Gasperson (D): At the present time, I would not support that we move in the near future to a county wide police system. However, I do acknowledge that those who advocate such a system may have some very good ideas. Therefore, I would not be opposed to having an in-depth study done of these proposals. A study must conclude that the county would be far better served by an appointed police chief, a better trained and a more professional law enforcement staff, and that the tax dollars spent are no more, and possibly less than the current spending. If the study recommends the implementation of a county wide police system, it would probably require the cooperation of one or more of our towns and action by the state legislature. This could take several years to achieve. Therefore, it&squo;s important that if I am a county commissioner, I will continue to support our current sheriff&squo;s office by properly funding their operating costs, equipment costs, and that the sheriff has the necessary finances for training and wages.McDermott (D): I&squo;m willing to look into county-wide law enforcement on two conditions:

(1) That the towns voluntarily participate (necessary to make it financially feasible); and

(2) That there is support for it from citizens, after they understand they would no longer be able to vote for the chief law enforcement officer of the county.

A police commission would have appointed (not elected) members. The police commission would appoint a chief of police. He would not be elected by the people. Proponents say this would be less political. Would it? By law, we would still elect a sheriff whose duties and staff would be limited. Citizens would bear the costs of the sheriff&squo;s office as well as their share of the county-wide law enforcement costs. Town residents could additionally pay their town&squo;s share but might no longer have law enforcement dedicated to their town&squo;s needs.

Still, I&squo;m willing to investigate the concept.Moore (R): I would support this. I feel that the citizens would have better protection. It could save tax dollars for some citizens. We would have to work with all three towns. Currently when a new sheriff is elected from a different party the current employees are not sure they will have a job. A countywide law enforcement would give them job security. Keep in mind the sheriff will continue to oversee the courts, run the jail and serve warrants.Owens (R): First, the law enforcement board would not be someone, but citizens appointed by the towns and county. Our county is small and we should be looking for better and more economical ways to operate local governments so that we can reduce the tax burden on the taxpayers of this county. I support a countywide law enforcement agency for many reasons. It will take politics out of hiring and firing career law officers, and it will reduce the cost to the towns, which pay approximately $1 million and with the county&squo;s cost the total is $2.55 million. It has been said by Mrs. McDermott that we could end like New York City or Los Angeles (maybe she has not lived here long enough to know, but Polk County is not either of these). She has said that the voters would not have control over the citizens board that would oversee this. She is wrong. This board would be appointed by each town&squo;s government and the commissioners and these could change every two years. This agency will have to be approved by the towns and county and the state legislature.Pack (R): This is a discussion that we need to enter into with all citizens and the towns. It has its merits in the form of savings of tax dollars but has the drawback of not electing who will oversee the county law enforcement, which is currently the sheriff. This is not a decision the commissioners should or could make alone. There are certain issues that the commissioners should make the decisions on in the course of normal business. But something of this magnitude has to be debated amongst the citizens and then the commissioners follow the will of the people.Walker (D): I do not support a countywide law enforcement agency at this time for several reasons. I believe we have much more pressing issues to which we must first attend: land use and water planning, job growth, and affordable housing for starters. However, it is my hope that Mr. Ted Owens ‐ the major proponent of this issue ‐ will have ample free time after the election to pursue this quest.

I do support the underlying principles of this idea: reducing costs, improving services and assisting the towns in taxpayer savings. One avenue towards this goal would be to partner with the towns in their recycling collection efforts. With Tryon and Columbus already on board with centers and programs in place, and Saluda working towards that end ‐ the county government would need only to expend a small portion of time, energy and financial assistance to grow these programs, reduce our waste, create jobs, save resources, and establish good will. If elected, what would be your primary goals during your term as a commissioner? Please be specific.

Gasperson (D): The first and most important goal will be to make sure that Polk County stays fiscally sound during this financially difficult time. It is critical that we maintain high standards, especially in the areas of health and safety. County employees need to know that their jobs are fiscally secure so they can focus on providing services to our citizens.

Other equally important goals are to improve employment opportunities, health care, and striving to keep taxes low. Encouraging growth in the agricultural and small business sectors of our county, I believe, will ultimately lead to the most resilient base for our local economy. St Luke&squo;s Hospital has recently joined with Carolinas Health Care Management, which is an important development for our community. Continuing to grow and improve Polk County&squo;s health care system will mean better care for our citizens and attract more health care providers, which will lead to providing more good paying health care related jobs.

Keeping property taxes low is as important to me and my family as it is to all the citizens who own property in Polk County. This is especially true for our retirees and those living on a fixed income. A few of the ways we can do this is to increase the efficiency of county building maintenance and pay employees appropriately to reduce turnover.

A timely completion of a comprehensive land use plan followed by a unified development ordinance that reflects the recommendations of the visioning committee is of paramount importance during the next two years&bsp; I wish to make it perfectly clear that I am opposed to any forced zoning of the White Oak or Cooper&squo;s Gap townships.

Having safe, reliable water for homes and businesses at reasonable rates has become increasingly critical. I will move decisively to develop a long term comprehensive water plan for the county. As your county commissioner, I will strive at all times to keep positive, open communication with Tryon, Columbus, and Saluda. We cannot afford to have any more adversarial relationships with the towns.

Finally, I believe that in order to find the right answers, it is important to ask the right questions. Therefore as a commissioner, I will always encourage and ask for citizen&squo;s ideas and opinions, even those which may be critical. Everyone should feel that their voice is being heard.McDermott (D): Keeping Polk County rural. Carrying out the will of Polk County people stated in the 2004 land use plan surveys and in the 2008 visioning committee survey. I am committed to adopting a comprehensive plan and following it up with ordinances specifically crafted to reflect the differing needs and desires of people in the six townships of the county.

Providing a sustainable surface water source for Polk County citizens, rather than relying solely on our fragile ground water supplies. We need a strategic water plan, so that build-out of a county water system is fair and financially feasible. At the same time, we must craft protections so that the extension of water lines does not result in dense development. Development always follows the water line. Polk County will be no exception unless we take prompt, effective action.

Fostering better communication among Polk County and Tryon, Columbus and Saluda. Also, providing wholly open county government that involves people and informs them about current and long term issues and why decisions are being made the way they are.

Improving Polk County&squo;s economy. I will work with Polk County&squo;s Economic Development Commission to bring living wage jobs to Polk County. Economic development is enhanced by excellent schools, good local healthcare and good recreational and cultural opportunities, so I will work to enhance their availability to Polk County residents.

Improving stewardship of Polk County&squo;s assets, both real property and financial. We can&squo;t afford to let county buildings, like the Jervey-Palmer building, go to ruin for lack of maintenance, costing much more in the long run.

Polk County is at a crossroads. We can&squo;t afford any longer to sit back and hope that things will turn out as we&squo;d like. We have to take our future into our own hands and make it work for us.Moore (R): Will continue to work on the county wide water system. This is vital for the citizens of this county. I will push to see that the BOC upgrade our 20-year-old communication system. This will give all of our fire, rescue, EMS, police and sheriff better communications in the field. It will also upgrade those areas that have dead zones now. The county must move forward now on this issue. As a member of the vision committee our citzens told us what they want for this county. The new BOC must follow through with the comprehensive plan.

Protecting our rural heritage. I will support a tax cut for our citizens.

Let me end by saying I want to be a listener of the people. And work with them to continue to make Polk County a place we all want to live, work, play and attend church.Owens (R): 1. To support and continue good sound business practices that will reduce the tax burden on our taxpayers.

2. Continue with buying Lake Adger and implementing the master water plan we have in place.

3. To continue the comphensive plan which will maintain the rural chacter of our county, provide low impact jobs and affordable housing.

4. To empower county employees so that they are free to use their abilities to the fullest to better serve our citizens. Pack (R): Continue to move forward with the county wide water system to provide water to the citizens that want and need this water. To continue to push for the majority of the board to agree to fund the much needed upgrade to our communications system for the protection of the personnel (fire, rescue, sheriff and police) who use this system and for the protection of the citizens who rely on the services from these departments. To continue to be financially conservative and responsible, which has been proven with the excess monies the county now has, and try to again get the board to give the citizens relief in the form of a tax cut. To continue to plan for and move forward with needed capital improvements as I have over the last four years. I also plan to continue to look for and implement ways to protect our rural character and not have negative impacts on affordable housing or the creation of much needed jobs in the county. Last but not least is to continue to listen to the citizens. I know not all agree with every one of my previous decisions but I feel that I have done what the majority of the citizens want on each issue and have stayed true to my original campaign promises from four years ago.Walker (D): Write &squo;thank you&squo; notes, sleep for about three days, then hit the ground running. As a Polk County commissioner, the first thing on my very long &uot;to do&uot; list would be to meet all of the county workers and the volunteer board members so to extend the hand of friendship, respect and professionalism.

As commissioner, I would suggest early on that our new board of commissioners hold several workshops to plan and prioritize our most pressing issues. We would then devise a strategy by which the skills, talents and interests of our board members were maximized efficiently by assigning each member to head up one or two work groups that represented a specific issue. I view comprehensive planning, water, farmland preservation and economic/affordable housing development as the four categories requiring our immediate attention.

By breaking down the jobs into manageable pieces, we can increase our effectiveness; working with individual groups we can commit our targeted energy to specific issues-create timelines and goals, by which we will measure our decisions and our successes. By taking ownership, we will keep a watchful eye, we will make adjustments to plans when necessary, scrap some ideas and follow through on others so that we can bring to the board meetings quality progress, creative solutions and vote ready policies, ordinances or resolutions.

As commissioner, I look forward to serving as a member of a team that works on the issues, not each other; that keeps its eyes on the prize ‐ the health and well-being of our community and our natural surroundings; that places principles above personalities, and keeps the politics out of the process. At the end of my term, I will look back with tired yet proud eyes at all that our board of commissioners were able to accomplish: a comprehensive plan for future development, new job growth opportunities, a cleaner and greener Polk County which honors its heritage and grows its potential through solid leadership and community involvement. It is only through diligence and accountability that true service is achieved.