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On the issues: County Commission

Steve Cichos1 / 5
Nellie Degen2 / 5
Ramone Gumke3 / 5
Craig Neys4 / 5
Denny Ova5 / 5

On the Issues continues today with candidates for Stutsman County Commission. Steven Cichos, Nellie Degen, Ramone Gumke, Mark McPherson, Craig Neys and Dennis Ova answer five written questions “on the issues.”

Neys and Ova are seeking re-election to a four-year term. Commissioner Dale Marks did not seek re-election. Stutsman County will choose three people to serve on the commission.

The questions and the candidates’ answers are on pages A6-A7.

Questions were answered earlier this week by candidates for Stutsman County sheriff and District 29 House. District 29 Senate candidates’ questions and answers will appear in Saturday’s Sun.

The election is Nov. 6. Early voting is available weekdays now through Nov. 2 at the Stutsman County Courthouse.

Steve Cichos

Age: 62

Professional occupation: Consultant; retired from 42 years of banking

Immediate family - spouse or significant other; children: wife, Carolyn Tomlin; children, Nick, Ann

Education: school attended/graduated; degrees and majors: Jamestown High School and Jamestown College graduate (University of Jamestown), Bachelor of Arts, business administration, minor: political science

Professional or personal memberships (i.e., clubs, church, professional organizations) (limited to 5): Knights of Columbus, B.P.O.E. # 995, F.O.E. #2337.

Nellie Degen

Age: 71

Professional occupation, previous if retired: Associate at Walmart; retired after 30 years as businesswoman in government

Immediate family - spouse or significant other; children: Husband, Bill Degen; one son, two grandchildren.

Education: school attended/graduated; degrees and majors: high school with year of college

Professional or personal memberships (i.e., clubs, church, professional organizations) (limited to 5): Women’s Auxiliary; president, Jamestown Frontier Village; Kiwanis International; former Chamber of Commerce member; and City of Hope Medical Center, lifetime member.

Ramone Gumke

Age: 38

Professional occupation; previous if retired: operations manager of Newman Print at Newman Signs

Immediate family - spouse or significant other; children: wife, Leann; children: Mason, 8, Colton, 6, Maddox, 3.

Education: school attended/graduated; degrees and majors: Jamestown College - chemistry (attended), Bismarck State College, Associate Arts and Associate Science in criminal justice (graduate); Police Academy and Highway Patrol Academy (graduated)

Professional or personal memberships (i.e., clubs, church, professional organizations (limited to 5): Attend Temple Baptist Church, Jamestown Hockey Board president

Mark McPherson

Age: 59

Professional occupation; previous if retired: Director of Strategic Accounts for Virnig Manufacturing, Rice Mn. (I work out of my home office in Jamestown.

Immediate family - spouse or significant other; children: Wife: Cheryl McPherson. Children: Miranda (Levi) Hanson, Laura (Josh) Bond, Charles (Brittany) McPherson, Ciara McPherson.

Education: school attended/graduated; degrees and majors: Bachelor’s Degree in Respiratory Care, Associate Degree in Health Sciences, ND Home Inspectors License, ND Realtors license, U.S. Coast Guard Certification ICS 300 & 400 National Incident Management System.

Professional or personal memberships (i.e., clubs, church, professional organizations) (limited to 5): Seventh-day Adventist Church, Jamestown Country Club, NRA, Pheasants Forever, Humane Society of the U.S.

Craig Neys

Age: 63

Professional occupation: Rural letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service

Immediate family - spouse or significant other; children: wife, Terrie; three daughters, Jacie Connell, Brittney Neys and Callie Baker; three grandchildren.

Education: school attended/graduated; degrees and majors: graduate of Buchanan High School, 1973, and North Dakota State School of Science, 1976.

Professional or personal memberships (i.e., clubs, church, professional organizations) (limited to 5): St. Margaret’s Catholic Church, Midway Township supervisor, president of the Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, past grand knight of the Knights of Columbus, past exalted ruler of the Elks Post #995.

Denny Ova

Age: 64

Professional occupation: Farmer

Immediate family - spouse or significant other; children: wife, Connie Ova; son, Kody Ova

Education: school attended/graduated; degrees and majors: graduate of Cleveland High School

Professional or personal memberships (i.e., clubs, church, professional organizations) (limited to 5): Valley Springs Township supervisor, Dakota Anglers, Stutsman County Wildlife Club, Medina English Lutheran Church

1.Why should voters elect you to serve on the Stutsman County Commission?

Steven Cichos: I have the experience, the desire and most importantly the time to serve. I have an excellent understanding of county government and how it operates. People have always said that I have been very accessible to questions & concerns that they may have. I have a very strong financial background which will be used in the county’s budgeting process. I work well with others and work to achieve common goals. We will need to work with existing employees and future employees to maintain a strong workforce for our county for today and the future. As with any organization it can only be as strong as its employees.

Nellie Degen: I will listen to and support the ideas of the people. As people know I’m very determined and persistent, I’m not afraid of hard work. I do whatever it takes to reach the needs and the goals of the people. I’m not shy and if I have to call the governor, or any other government officials to address an issue, I’ll do it. I will not run away from any situation. I will honor and serve the people.

Ramone Gumke: I have gained the knowledge and experience over the last eight years, on the Jamestown City Council, to serve the citizens of Stutsman County well.  While I was in office I had the opportunity to serve on the JSDC board of directors and the Law Enforcement Governing Authority of which both are boards that the Commissioners have a direct role.  As a former county employee I also know the county and it’s departments well. I will be able to lead immediately without the deficit of a learning curve and do so in a knowledgeable, and financially responsible manner.

Mark McPherson: I feel that my diverse business background in manufacturing, construction, healthcare, emergency management, real  estate development, and personnel management is a solid background that would give our voters confidence in my abilities. I have many years of successful business management that I feel will guide me in my decision making and how I view the issues that are important to Stutsman County.

Craig Neys: As a rural letter carrier, I feel I have much knowledge of road conditions that exist in Stutsman County.  Voters should elect me because of the progress we are making in Stutsman County. In the past eight years, 95 miles of roads have been repaved.  We have another five miles planned for 2019. Many other miles of paved roads have been chip sealed. A bridge project is planned as well. I serve on the airport authority board.  There has been a new terminal built, and a new parking lot has just been completed. The runways have all been repaired with new lighting installed, and a new boarding walkway has been added.  There have been more than 10,000 passenger boardings per year for the past two years. Taxes have been kept in check, and we are operating with a balanced budget. I would appreciate your support so that I may continue being a part of the progress that is being made and continue serving the constituents of Stutsman County.

Dennis Ova: I have been a proven leader for 15 years. I care about the people of Stutsman County. It’s important to me that the budget is balanced and fair. The mill levy is lower right now than it was in 2011. This is a good sign – lower taxes. I think I have good common sense and work well with others. I always return calls from people of Stutsman County within a day and try to answer their questions and take care of their concerns about the county. I very rarely miss a meeting of the County Commission or any of the committees I serve on to make sure I am doing the best job I was elected to do.

  1. What, if elected, would be your top priority? Explain.

Cichos: If elected my primary goal would be to keep our county fiscally responsible while providing the necessary services our residents have come to expect. By doing this it will allow us to plan for maintenance and any other future infrastructure needs that may develop. We all understand that the costs of doing business continues to rise, however with proper planning and budgeting we may be more successful in meeting those rising costs in a timely manner.

Degen: My top priority would be: fiscal responsibility; budgeting to meet the County responsibilities, for such as law enforcement, social service and roads.

Gumke: Top priorities need to be maintaining and improving on progress made with the road system within Stutsman County as well as focusing on economic development. Economic development and growing the tax base, is the only way to reduce the financial tax impact of taxes on our citizens, that comes with inflation and reduced funding to the county from State and Federal levels. Many efficiencies have been achieved at the county in regards to staffing levels and there isn’t much that could be cut from those budgets and still maintain the required services and functions of county government so increased costs need to be covered by growth.

McPherson: I feel that probably the most important issue right now for the county is economic development in both our rural areas, as well as urban. I like the positive news in regards to the Soybean Crushing Plant, and the ethanol plant, but I am very concerned about the future of the Cargill Malting Plant and what is going to happen there. They are a big contributor to the county's tax base.

Neys: Roads are always a priority.  We will continue to use money wisely as needs arise.  The Spiritwood Energy Park and the Jamestown Airport Business Park are two other priorities.  We as commissioners need to keep in contact with companies and businesses to interest them in locating in the great city of Jamestown.

Ova: My top priority is the people of Stutsman County. Most important is to repair and maintain

roads and infrastructure. I will continue to encourage and support new business in the county.

  1. In your opinion, does the county receive enough benefit from South Central Dakota Regional Council to continue being a member? Explain.

Cichos: Yes. Regional councils historically have provided the expertise and access to various federal, state and local funding sources for various projects. Councils have worked with several of our smaller communities in our county in assisting to find funding for community projects such as a grocery store, community cafe and water and sewer projects. They have assisted in larger economic development needs such as roads in our county, and business expansions.

Degen: South Central Dakota Regional Council membership is a resource and asset for the county to be a member.

Gumke: Having served on the SCDRC Board of Directors, this isn’t a yes or no question. I was involved in the conversations leading to the first attempt to discontinue being a member and most of that discussion centered around the benefit received by the communities within Stutsman County. Since that time several projects have been approved that directly benefited communities within the county. If this continues then yes. If it doesn’t then no. With the closure of the Small Business Development Center we should look at the amount of dues we pay as this service will need to be provided through JSDC for it to continue.

McPherson: I feel that any program that isn't producing positive results for the county needs to be seriously looked at and evaluated. Our tax dollars are too precious to spend frivolously. However, not having been directly involved makes it unfair for me to form a strong opinion either way. I would welcome the opportunity to becoming involved in evaluating this relationship and any other program that might not be productive for the county.

Neys: Yes, the county receives enough benefit to continue being a member of the South Central Dakota Regional Council.  We need to work closely with them when we discuss budget issues so that we are striving for the same goals.

Ova:  I really don’t know if we can get a better bang for our buck.

  1. Are there unmet infrastructure needs that could facilitate economic development in Stutsman County? If so, how could Stutsman County address that? Explain.

Cichos: I am not aware of any unmet infrastructure needs in our county that could facilitate future economic development. In conjunction with the City of Jamestown & the JSDC a new industrial park is being built which will provide infrastructure needs for future projects, which would locate in that area. The Spiritwood Energy Park has space available for future expansion as well. If a need should arise I believe we are positioned well to react very quickly to meet any necessary infrastructure requirements that may be necessary to recruit or locate a business in our county.

Degen: Infrastructure needs are an ongoing issue for the county. Fiscal responsibility is a big part of economic development. New business is important for progress; on the other hand, it is their responsibility to give back to the community. It is not just the responsibility of the people, of this county, to always be picking up the tab. We have wonderful businesses that are always giving back to our community; we should not sacrifice the existing businesses. It’s alright to say, “thank you” for good service. By working together, we can be successful, no matter what our goals and objectives are.

Gumke: There are still improvements that are needed despite the progress that has been made in recent years with the roads.  We will need to be diligent to make sure the progress continues and maintenance is kept up. Other infrastructure needs have been satisfied by the work we accomplished through the County/City of Jamestown/ and JSDC.  Securing tenants for the Spiritwood Energy Park and the, under construction, Airport Business Park should now be the focus.

McPherson: I understand that there are infrastructure needs in the Spiritwood Energy Park which need to be addressed and I feel we need to take a conservative approach to that area until we know what other potentially new industries might need.

I feel we need to continue to focus on providing safe and sound roads not only for economic development, but for support of our existing agricultural sector needs.

Neys: Both the Spiritwood Energy Park and the Airport Business Park are a work in progress that will greatly enhance economic development in Stutsman County.  We will continue to work with JSDC to create good paying jobs and put more people to work.

Ova: There are roads that could use work all the time, we have a lot of traffic in this county.

Stutsman County is 2300 square miles, one of the biggest counties in the United States. Stutsman County has worked closely with the Spiritwood Energy Park Association (SEPA) to provide bonding for infrastructure to encourage growth at SEPA and will keep on doing this. We also supported the infrastructure improvements at the Jamestown Regional Airport to attract new business in the city of Jamestown. And, Stutsman County along with the City of Jamestown provided the infrastructure for the I94 Business Park.

  1. What do you consider to be the greatest challenge for Stutsman County? What, if anything, can be done to address that challenge?

Cichos: Workforce. Having worked with businesses, in the manufacturing, retail and service industry, I have never witnessed such a shortage of workers and in many cases qualified workers in our county. This is not unique to our county but the state of North Dakota, as well. Stutsman County will need to work in conjunction with the City of Jamestown, the Chamber, Tourism to promote our area as a great place to live & work. We have great schools, the University of Jamestown, the hospital, TRAC, hunting & fishing, opportunities, in our county, to attract workers. We need to keep our existing businesses in our county to maintain our existing tax base while working to increase it by attracting others to locate here.

Degen: Recently I had a person come up to me and state that he has been a resident of Stutsman County for over 40 years. And during that time, nothing has changed…except his taxes. They’ve gone up and up and up! He stated to me, WE NEED TO CHANGE COMMISSIONERS. He said, “Nellie, you need to get in to help the people.” YOUR VOTE DOES COUNT, VOTE FOR CHANGE!

Gumke: Our greatest challenge is currently, available workforce in order to keep growing and attracting economic development.  We need to make a concentrated effort in attracting new business to our communities and growing our existing businesses. With economic growth comes an influx of workforce and the two are very closely linked.  The often quoted “If your not growing, you’re dying” is true for all communities. A business friendly environment and wholistic approach to economic growth has served other communities well and we need to model the success of others.

McPherson: I feel that economic development is the greatest challenge in growing the economy of Stutsman County, thus giving us the increased tax base to function more efficiently and progressively. It effects many aspects of our lives both in our rural and urban communities.

I think marketing with perhaps a stronger national/international focus would be one way to address that challenge. Possibly to larger manufacturing corporations for expanded production and logistical needs.

Neys: Our biggest challenge for Stutsman County is providing more economic development in order to retain our youth and bring in new families.  We must continue to work closely with the JSDC who works diligently to attract new businesses to our area.

Ova: There are good jobs here but not enough people to fill them. Stutsman County is a nice place to live, friendly people, clean cities and good businesses. We cannot change things overnight, but we are doing our best to support efforts to attract more people and business.

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