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Candidate forum packs Forum

Monday, October 23, 2006

Inside the Election

The issues were flying before a packed crowd as a competitive field of Buena Vista County supervisor and attorney candidates faced a candidates' Forum Thursday evening. The event was hosted at Buena Vista University's Forum by the Business and Professional Women, College Democrats and Republicans and also the county parties.

BVU students Nick Buelt and Joel Traver addressed the candidates with a series of questions.

District 1 candidates Ken Hach, Willard Christensen and Gary Small were up first, asked how their previous experiences would aid them in handling issues of mental health and law enforcement.

"We had a few break-ins and non arrests, I guess that there is a picture of people stealing and nothing to do about it. I think we need more law enforcement," Christensen said.

"On mental health issues I don't have hands-on experience," Small said. "I have been attending the meetings for the last six months and see what the board has done. I have also met with Dawn Mentzer to learn more on those issues. With law enforcement I was a fire chief for 15 years and have been through Hazmat experience and worked with law enforcement."

"From 1961-1977 I was deputy sheriff and though the job has changed since then, I have great appreciation for the people," Hach said.

"I have been watching the process of the jail and commend the board for working well the departments and hope to continue. My wife has been in wellness for 38 years and learned about it and I have spent time with the different departments to learn more about the issues."

District 2 featured Dale Arends and Tim Humes. Karla Madsen is on the ballot but was absent from the forum. Candidates were asked about issues they see facing farmers.

"One issue is making a living - during the '80s and '90s there was struggle and people were not able to do what they love," Arends said. "With biofuels, something never seen before, farmers have an opportunity to go in on the alternative fuels and this gives farmers a chance to control their destiny more then before, where we took what we got."

Humes said, "My main concern is the environment. Our rivers are some of the most polluted in country and we need a plan to clean them up. Another thing I would like to see is going back to organic gardening and organic farming. With the last e-coli outbreak it has shown problems with big commercial farming."

District 3's race has come down to Richard Dirkx and Paul Merten. They were asked about how to keep young people in BV County.

"We will be having small businesses coming in and will need the college education to help run the business," Dirkx said. "We do not have them right now but we need to work on it. We need to work on having good paying jobs to keep high school students and college students in the county."

"We would love to have you stay and get some experience here and open up your own business or you can go out and get some experience and come back to open your own businesses and we will help you any way we can," Merten said. "Not only do we have to work on keeping students here but to bring those who left back."

Finally, county attorney candidates, incumbent Phil Havens and his former assistant Dave Patton, took center stage. One question directed at the candidates was about how to help the juvenile system.

"I looked through the records and there are backlogs of cases waiting," Patton said. "The reporters can't report on the cases because of confidentiality, lawyers not involved in the case cannot check to make sure everything is going right because of confidentiality. I would have an assistant work on the cases. I would also have an assistant who lives in Buena Vista County and have an invested interest in the area."

"The county attorney does not have the capacity to work on the juvenile system given the resources," Havens said. "If there were resources there is only one judge who travels through many counties so we would need the state to change the system as well. On the county attorneys, the best candidates for the position were selected. At the time of hiring there were no applicants from Buena Vista County."

UCN, the university's television network, will air the Candidates Forum on cable channel three - October 30 at 7 p.m., November 2 at 6:50 p.m. and November 5 at 6 p.m.

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