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County Commission race

Two incumbents and four challengers seeking one of three seats on the Stutsman County Commission in Tuesday's election differ on what they want to accomplish in a four-year term.

"I would really like to see growth and and be able to secure tenants for the Spiritwood Energy Park and the Airport Business Park that is now being built," said Ramone Gumke, 38, an operations manager of Newman Print at Newman Signs.

Mark McPherson, 59, who works locally as director of strategic accounts for Virnig Manufacturing in Rice Minn., said he would pursue growth in economic development.

"We really need to grow our tax base and grow the county by bringing in new industry and helping the existing industry to grow to bring in more citizens," McPherson said.

Craig Neys, 63, a rural letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, said roads and energy are priorities.

"We would continue fixing some more road and improve infrastructure out at the Spiritwood Energy Park," Neys said.

Dennis Ova, 64, a farmer, also said roads are the priority and that 23 miles of county roads are due for updates in 2019. He said keeping the mill levy down is also important.

"Right now it is below what it was in 2011 and I think we're doing a good job," Ova said. "There's a few issues, but overall there are just a lot of things to do with only so much money to do it."

Steven Cichos, 62, a consultant who is retired from banking, said being accountable and helping the county grow along with increasing the number of people who are working to increase the tax base are important.

"I think our goal would be to be fiscally responsible," Cichos said. "We want to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars while continuing to support economic development."

Nellie Degen, 71, who is semi-retired and works at Walmart, said finding alternatives to fund the budget and county programs can help serve the needs of the community and be fiscally responsible. Her goals are also to do work that helps protect people from growing social ills and violence that she said are increasing during trying times.

"I want to bring the resources to help people to protect themselves," Degen said. "Sometimes you have to take bull by the horns and do what needs to be done to serve the people."

Bureau of Reclamation land at Jamestown Reservoir would fall under the domain of the Stutsman County Park District if it receives federal approval. The candidates differed on what the Stutsman County Commission would do to integrate the lands into the county park system.

Gumke, a former Jamestown City Council member, said he would start with an evaluation of the total lands and what would be required to staff and maintain them.

"We want to know what we are able to do without breaking the bank, so to speak," Gumke said. "This is such an unknown right now but as much land as possible should be integrated into the park system."

McPherson said he enjoys the existing campgrounds and facilities in the county. His goal is to attract more people from outside the county to come here for camping and recreation.

"I'm all for expanding our tourism market because I think that area in particular would be beneficial for the county," McPherson said. "We will do anything we can to build what will help people to enjoy their summers and to help tourism."

Neys, an incumbent commissioner, said more water recreation opportunities will be good for the county.

"It all takes money," Neys said. "This is a work in progress and we will have to wait and see how it all turns out."

Ova, an incumbent commissioner, said there are plans to develop some of the land into campgrounds but nothing is for sure yet. If cabin owners can buy their land then they are more likely to build or update the existing properties, which is good, he said.

"It is better to know it's theirs instead of wondering if they're going to get kicked out or if something is going to change," Ova said. "It's a good investment for Jamestown."

Cichos, a former county commissioner, said Stutsman County Park District would be more effective managing the park and two campgrounds as a local entity. He would work with cabin owners who purchased individual lots above the floodplain level.

"Maybe we will have an opportunity to expand those (lands) as well," Cichos said.

Degen said the Stutsman County Park Board should work closely with landowners and renters to ensure compliance with ongoing federal regulations regarding the lands. Compliance is critical to protect the county and the residents on the land who have built homes where they are still vulnerable to permitting on property they can't use as an asset or to build equity, she said.

"No one should lose their home," Degen said. "No matter how you look at it this can be a win-win for everyone no matter how many dollars there are the parks will be able to function and still be able to be maintained."

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